Personalities | Pat Metheny | Pioneer & Visionary | Guitar Heroes

A true pioneer and musical visionary, Pat Metheny (b. 1954) is one of the most important voices in the history of jazz guitar. Winner of countless ‘Best Jazz Guitarist’ polls and 12 Grammy Awards – including an unprecedented seven consecutive wins for seven consecutive albums – Metheny’s impact on jazz guitar is on a par with that of Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in a musical family, Metheny was a prodigy. He began playing trumpet by the age of eight and switched to guitar at 12. By the age of 15, he was gigging regularly with the hottest jazz players in Kansas City. At the age of 18 he became the youngest teacher ever at the University of Miami, and one year later he became the youngest teacher ever at Berklee College of Music (where he received an honorary doctorate degree in 1996). He hit the international jazz scene as a performer in 1974, playing with the great vibraphonist Gary Burton. Already, his loose and flexible articulation, reminiscent of sax greats like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, was on full display.

In 1976 Metheny released his solo debut, Bright Size Life, an album that introduced the ‘chorused’ sound, achieved via delay effects and multiple amplifiers. It would become the traditional jazz-guitar sound for a whole new generation of players. As his career marched forward, Metheny continued to challenge barriers. In 1979 he would become the very first jazz guitarist to use the guitar synthesizer (Roland GR-300) in an improvisational setting. He would also be instrumental in the development of the soprano acoustic guitar, Linda Manzer’s 42-string Pikasso guitar, his own signature Ibanez PM-100 guitar and various other custom instruments.

More than just a jazz-guitar virtuoso, Metheny has performed with an impressively diverse range of artists, including Steve Reich, Ornette Coleman, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and David Bowie. And as a composer, his curriculum vitae includes compositions for solo guitar, small ensembles and large orchestras in settings ranging from modern jazz to rock to classical to ballet.

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