Be sure to read Part 1, which focuses on Joni Mitchell’s song “Furry Sings the Blues” and her distinctive use of alternate tunings.
noted in Part 1, Metheny’s presence in Mitchell’s touring band is one among his
rare appearances as a sideman to an artist from outside the jazz world. Well
before his 1979 gig as Mitchell’s lead guitarist, Pat Metheny had in place a
sound and style very much his own. Throughout much of the show, he presses his
well-known tone—via a Gibson Es-175 into a pair of clean Acoustic combos,
gently enhanced with asymmetrical delay settings—into the service of songs
distant from his own.
Be sure to check back on July 7 for part 2, which will focus on Pat Metheny’s contribution to “Furry Sings the Blues.”
Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light” is a brilliant performance document that brings
together stage translations of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s mid-70s
period. During this interval, Mitchell released one after another adventurous
album: Court and Spark (1974), The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976), Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977), and Mingus (1979). In contrast to the folk and softer rock leanings of
her earlier recordings, the brief on this sequence of albums was strongly
informed by jazz, and Mitchell brought aboard some of the most cutting-edge
jazz musicians of the era, perhaps most notably electric bass innovator and
virtuoso Jaco Pastorius.
Although Mitchell herself is the essential guitar presence
on her albums, she invited occasional additions from jazz-rock lead player
Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. By the time of the late 1979 gigs that led to Shadows and Light, her live band
included one of the most innovative young jazz guitarists of the time: Pat
Metheny. Four years out from his 1976 debut and close to the cusp of releasing American Garage, Metheny was in what
have proven to be rare circumstances in his lengthy and still-evolving career.
The Stray Cats breakout track and video hit may well be the
defining track of the first wave of retro rock. It’s now a classic in its own
right. Brian Setzer masterfully accompanies his throwback-cool vocals with clean-toned,
slapback-echoed guitar moves that include jazzy sliding chords; rockabilly triads
extended with sixths; and two tight, confident solos—not to mention a motor of
a main riff. Released decades after the peak of rockabilly, “Rock This Town”
might have seemed, at first, like the product of one more group of costumed MTV
opportunists, but Setzer, along with bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim
Phantom, showed confidence that rockabilly was as enduring and vital as a
lovingly cared-for 1950s hot rod with a tank full of fuel.