Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Music of Pat Metheny - Farmer's Trust

I've been an avid fan of Pat Metheny since being introduced to his work in the form of his beautiful song, 'James,' some time circa the early 2000's. Truth be told, my first true introduction to him came in the late 90's as a result of the Walt 'Baby' Love countdown show, which used 'Here to Stay' as a segue piece.

Since that time, I've gotten to listen to a lot of his music, and he is quite the busy artist with prolific output. Some of the stuff he puts out is straight ahead jazz, other stuff (example, 'Here to Stay') borders on smooth jazz; and then some of his stuff is just straight out of this world experimental.

Today, I'm focusing on 'Farmer's Trust' from his live Travels album, which consists of a slew of the Pat Metheny Group's hits recorded during live sessions in 1982 (yep, this recording is technically as old as I am). This is my best song on the album, and probably one of his all-time favourites. I believe the best way to describe the song would be as "...a melancholic chant, a soothing lullaby, a celebration of life in its simplicity and just a hint of an ode to Mother Nature"; at least those were the words I used when I wrote to the Q&A page on his website.

My earliest introduction to the song was via the Kevin Costner movie "Fandango". I remember perusing through the PMG website and finding out that some of the group's songs were a part of the Fandango soundtrack. If memory serves me right, there should be 3 songs: It's for you, September 15th and Farmer's Trust. "It's for you" received the most screen time as part of a dance routine; unless you're really familiar with "September 15th", you'd miss it as only a smidgen of it plays out on a landing strip. "Farmer's Trust" is the setting for a particular memorable scene: the movie's closing. As everyone departs, we are treated to a long goodbye between two characters (Phil & Dorman), and after that Kevin Costner's "Gardner" casts a long glance back at them from a vantage point overlooking the party. Originally, I remember being distraught because I felt like the track itself was part of the movie's score, and thus something I would be unable to come by; however, with a bit of luck trying out the one PMG group song I was  unfamiliar with, I found my song.

This ballad has that open plain Midwestern charm that's at the root of Metheny and Mays' humble beginnings. It sounds like they concocted it as they sat out over some open plain late past dusk, and tried to evoke the mood of the calmness settling over the earth. Nana Vasconcelos (rest his soul) provides the delightful bird chirping that gives this song an ethereal quality. I couldn't believe that he actually used a rubber duck to pull off such an impressive feat! (the man was a wizard).

The interplay between all the moving pieces that are the 5 musicians involved in crafting this gem works so well that it actually seems like a really simple song. (Jim Hall & Pat Metheny in fact have a very beautiful rendition of this song that only comprises of the two of them on guitars). It has this great use of silence interspersed within it; sometimes Metheny on guitar shines through while everyone else takes a back seat, then Mays on the keyboard takes the lead; Rodby lays out a beautiful bass line, Gottlieb's drums as just the slightest hint of a whisper...and finally, Nana's got the chirps. I think what's really impressive about this band - in all its permutations - is its ability to fill up space orchestrally with their notes. It feels like they use the bare minimum of notes here, and it works perfectly.

If I were on a deserted island, this is definitely one of those tracks I'd have with me. There's just so much hope at the core of this song.

God Bless

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