LOS ANGELES-Jazz guitar virtuoso and living legend, Pat Metheny, was the chosen one to kick-off the 2016-17 season for the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA’s acoustically-sound Royce Hall on Thursday.
He was welcomed with cheers, clapping, and ear-piercing whistles from all of his adoring fans. As an opener, Metheny strolled out on stage, sat down in a chair, and treated the audience to a sweet solo piece on his unique, multi-necked Pikasso guitar built by Canadian master luthier Linda Manzer.
The name Pikasso derives from its likeness in appearance to the cubist works of Pablo Picasso. The instrument is a harp guitar with four necks, two sound holes, 42 strings (fretboards at different angles), and has a special ergonomic feature called the “Manzer Wedge.” The original was built for Metheny in 1984 when he asked her to design an instrument with as many strings as possible.
He displayed his trademark playing style, which blends the loose and flexible articulation customarily reserved for horn players with an advanced rhythmic and harmonic sensibility – a way of playing and improvising that is modern in conception but grounded deeply in the jazz tradition of melody, swing, and the blues.
After Metheny’s solo, his first-class, hand-picked bandmates trickled onto the floor. Long-time drummer Antonio Sanchez, and newer additions, bassist Linda Oh and pianist Gwilyn Simcock. It was a seamless transition as the quartets sound showed chemistry and synergy.
Throughout the performance, Metheny seemed to have a laser-like focus and a fluidity with his bandmates. One could sense that the musicians brought their A-game knowing they would be playing alongside Metheny, one of the architects of jazz guitar. His duets with each band member were impeccably done.
Metheny’s warm sound moved from melodic to folk-like, and then to a rock-style, then incorporating a pinch of latin grooves. His trademark is the remarkable ability to improvise on top of the studied score.
A man of few words, the master successfully communicated to his audience with the sound of his guitars.
Photo Credit: Xavier Badosa