Although he's been making records for thirty-five years, there is no hint of musical complacency in renowned guitarist Pat Metheny, and he will offer further proof of this on Saturday, October 2, when he brings his "The Orchestrion Tour" to the W.L. Lyons Brown Theatre.
Metheny will be taking the stage alone, but he won't be unaccompanied. Instead, he will be using "orchestrionics," which he describes as a method of developing ensemble-oriented music using acoustic and electric instruments that are mechanically controlled in a variety of ways, using solenoids and pneumatics. Hmmm. So what does that mean exactly?
Think of Metheny's music machine as a player piano for the 21st century. But this thing also plays drums, vibraphone, and numerous other instruments. On top of these layers of acoustic sound, he adds his more conventional yet unmistakable electric guitar playing to the mix.
Metheny has never been easy to classify as merely a jazz guitarist. Although he is known by many as a fusion great, his catalogue often defies strict genre classifications. The hypnotic soundtrack to The Falcon and The Snowman heavily uses synthesizers. Even his more lengthy tracks like 1981's As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls provide an interesting and innovative, cinematic scope.
Arguably underrated in the mainstream, Metheny is well appreciated by music aficionados and rightfully so. His guitar work is distinct and his musical range varied. You may be more familiar with his stellar score to A Map of the World, and his 1992 album Secret Story provides a nice introduction to the artist.
Metheny believes that one of the inspiring hallmarks of the jazz tradition has been the way it has willfully ushered in fresh musical contexts, resulting in new performance environments for players and composers. With Orchestrion, Metheny is doing just that.
To fully appreciate and understand how this, for lack of a better word, machine will work on stage and how it is part of such a scientific yet organic process, Louisvillians will have to see it for themselves October 2 at 8:00 at the Brown Theatre. Tickets are between $28.50-$57.50 and are available at The Kentucky Center for the Arts box office.
Until then, this mini documentary on the Orchestration album and tour will have to suffice.