Pat Metheny Group - History - 1980s

1980s

Travels, in 1983 won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance in 1984. From 1982 to 1985 the Pat Metheny Group released Offramp in 1982, a live album, Travels in 1983, and First Circle in 1984. The Falcon and the Snowman followed in 1985; a soundtrack album for the film of the same name. The latter featured the song "This Is Not America", a collaboration with David Bowie which reached #14 in the British Top 40 in early 1985 and #32 in the USA.

Offramp marked the first recorded appearance of bassist Steve Rodby in the group (replacing Mark Egan), and also featured Brazilian "guest artist" NanĂ¡ Vasconcelos. Vasconcelos had appeared on the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, and his work on percussions and wordless vocals marked the first addition of Latin-South American music shadings to the Group's sound. Offramp was also the group's first recording to win a Grammy Award, marking the start of more-or-less unbroken series of wins for the group, up to and including their latest release The Way Up, which won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. The South American influence would continue and intensify on First Circle with the addition of Argentine multi-instrumentalist Pedro Aznar. First Circle also marked the group debut of drummer Paul Wertico (replacing Danny Gottlieb). This period saw the commercial popularity of the band increase, especially thanks to the live recording Travels. First Circle would also be Metheny's last project with the ECM label; Metheny had been a key artist for ECM but left over conceptual disagreements with label founder Manfred Eicher.

Then next three Pat Metheny Group releases would be based around a further intensification of the Brazilian rhythms first heard in the early '80s. Additional South American musicians appear as guests, notably Brazilian percussion player Armando Marcal. Still Life (Talking), (1987) was the Group's first release on new label, Geffen Records, and featured several tracks which have long been popular with the group's followers, and which are still in their setlist. In particular, the album's first tune, "Minuano (Six Eight)", represents a good example of the Pat Metheny group compositional style from this period: the track starts with a haunting minor section from Mays, lifts off in a typical Methenian jubilant major melody, leading to a Maysian metric and harmonically-modulated interlude, creating suspense which is finally resolved in the Methenian major theme. Another popular highlight was "Last Train Home", a rhythmically relentless piece evoking the American Midwest. The 1989 release Letter from Home continued this approach, with the South American influence becoming even more prevalent in its bossa nova and samba rhythms.

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