The music of the Pat Metheny Group (PMG) takes my mind back a few years, to a very specific place. The year was 2007 circa April, and the exact venue was the Wenzhou University Library's computer lab. It was shortly after I had moved from Kenya to China, and was slowly but surely getting my bearings in a new land. The computer lab was where I spent most of my time because, conveniently, it had free internet. Thanks to China's love/hate relationship with foreign companies (Google et al.), I was forced to become accustomed to using "Baidu" as my search engine of choice. Great thing about Baidu was that it had an MP3 tab, so I could search for music that crossed my fancy, and a lot of times even listen to it.
The music that resonates most with that time is that of the Pat Metheny Group, specifically "The White Album". I don't know if it's because those were the first songs I played online or perhaps it might be because of that broad Midwestern quality to the music that endears it to someone on a long travel. Whatever the reason, these 2 bits of memories are etched side by side.
The song September 15th is from a whole other different album: As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls (a mouthful indeed). The album is unique in that it's basically a collaboration between the core of the PMG - Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays. (with a sprinkling of Nana Vasconcelos for good measure).
September 15th is a pure guitar and piano collaboration, and I like to think of it as a song consisting of 3 different songs. That's just how it was written! The first 2 minute portion consists of a preamble contributed by Lyle; with his synth work laying a beautiful orchestral background, Pat is afforded the chance to colour the rhythm with a sparse picking of his guitar strings. There is a tight interplay between their work, but Metheny is clearly allowed to be the front man for this section. Lyle's synths provide a sad solemn undertone, and Pat's guitar adds layers of emotion above it. Despite this song being dedicated to a fallen comrade (Bill Evans), this is not a dirge; it still comes across as a romantic ballad, particularly in its preamble.
The second part, a slight smidgen above 2 minutes, is a waltz piece contributed by Pat. If you've heard his live performance you'd no doubt recognize this part. His solo medley (for the longest time) has consisted of Phase Dance - Minuano - September 15th (Waltz) - Etc. As he tells the story, he actually wrote it specifically for another group, but they didn't end up using it; so he re-purposed it and ended up using it here. Lyle is on the piano in this portion, but does use the synths to lay down a haunting intro to the piece. This is equal parts Metheny and Mays, matching each other note for note, with the strings and keys melded into a unified whole. This is my favourite bit from the song, immediately likeable and invigorating.
The third and final part is a stroke of luck, just pure serendipity. As Pat tells the story, the written portion of the music was over, so this remaining section was open ended and built on the fly. I feel like this segment hands the reins over to Lyle, using Pat's guitar to chime in occasionally to add accents. When they played this live (during the Imaginary Day tour), this third segment actually ended up being a Lyle solo. While the opening seems heavy laden, and the middle a tad whimsical, this latter portion personally resonates with a sort of cautious hope. (I didn't write the music, but it probably inspires me in this specific way...a good piece of music does that!)
I am definitely not gifted with the musical acumen to describe this song; but then again, maybe something this complex doesn't have to be broken down further for it to be enjoyed. Basically, this is one of my Metheny/Mays staples; it never gets old and is sure to please each time. If you're looking for some inspiration or just need to appreciate some impressive artistry at work, this is the track for you.