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Pat Metheny has consistently been one of the most widely celebrated and prominent jazz guitarists from the mid-1970s to present day. Over the course of Metheny’s 45-year career, he has accumulated 44 albums as a band leader, 20 Grammy awards, and numerous “Best Jazz Guitarist” awards from DownBeat and JazzTimes. Despite the general sources, articles and interviews conducted about Metheny’s life and music, there is a lack of scholarly research which addresses how Pat Metheny’s improvisatory approach has changed throughout the course of his career.
This document provides a better understanding of Pat Metheny’s improvisatory evolution with transcriptions, analyses, and comparisons of six commercially available solos: three from his debut album Bright Size Life (ECM 1976) and three recorded between 2000-2009. By choosing select examples from Metheny’s first album as a band leader to display his early improvisatory style, this research establishes a professionally significant moment in Metheny’s career as the chronological baseline for solo comparisons. Further, by using the same compositional frameworks from Bright Size Life as the basis for analytical comparison between eras, this research provides a much needed and more direct comparison between Metheny’s earlier and later improvisatory styles that is lacking in current research.
Through a comparison of primary audio sources, solo and compositional analyses, solo transcriptions, and comparisons that highlight the differences between Metheny’s 1976 and post-2000 improvisatory styles, this analysis seeks to identify Pat Metheny’s most effective melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic methods for building tension and release. A final summary will re-examine the three solo comparisons to identify overarching melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic tendencies that Metheny uses to build tension and release by era (1976 and 2000-2009). The conclusion will highlight the differences found between Metheny’s earlier and later improvisatory approaches as identified by the summary.
Advisers: Peter Bouffard and Anthony Bushard