Pat Metheny: American Garage

The Songs:

  1. (Cross The) Heartland
  2. Airstream
  3. The Search
  4. American Garage
  5. The Epic

Personnel:

  • Pat Metheny – guitars
  • Lyle Mays – keyboards
  • Mark Egan – bass
  • Danny Gottlieb – drums

In 1979, the Pat Metheny Group were becoming increasingly popular with jazz fans and on college campuses. After Metheny’s startling debut effort, Bright Size Life, (which featured the formidable bass playing of the then-unknown Jaco Pastorius), he formed the Pat Metheny Group, which included his longtime musical partner Lyle Mays, as well as Mark Egan and Danny Gottlieb, who were former Metheny and Pastorius students from the University of Miami. Although Metheny signed with Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, his music never quite fit the mold of the its more typical atmospheric, almost New Age jazz. The release of American Garage created even more distinction from ECM’s typical offerings.

Metheny’s music and guitar style, both of which reflect his Missouri roots g, often depict travel and exploration, always seeking what lies next around the bend in the road. Those themes are certainly prevalent on this album, which could easily be the soundtrack for a road trip through the Midwest. The opening track, “(Cross The) Heartland”, became an instant hit for the group and still finds its way into occasional set lists during the band’s tours. “The Search” contained some early Latin influences, which would become an increasingly big part of Metheny’s music. It was used as the theme music for a PBS series. The title track shows an edgier, rock influence which definitely eschewed the ECM style. The album finished off with the lengthy self-descriptive title, “The Epic“, which features some brilliant group interplay and powerful improvisations between the well-crafted written material.

American Garage reached #1 on the Billboard jazz charts and even crossed over into the pop charts. It was also to be the last album with original group member Mark Egan. The album’s success helped propel the Pat Metheny Group to the top ranks of jazz. Three decades later, their popularity and musical innovation remain strong, having achieved a number of gold records. Pat Metheny has won 17 Grammy Awards, (10 of them with the Pat Metheny Group), and has won in 10 different categories, a testament to his wide-ranging musical interests and talent. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Richard Niles. The Pat Metheny Interviews.

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