Wednesday, February 06, 2008

If I Could

Pat Metheny's astonishing slowie of that name is not a love song - or not a conventional one. From the 1985 ECM album First Circle, its scarcely-bearable sense of yearning refers not to unrequited love but to unrequited technical desire, that of being able to emulate jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. Those lacking a musical sweeth tooth may find the piece a little too wistful even by the standards of the tousle-haired Missouri guitarist, but its sense of brokenheartedness is unparalleled in jazz; it evokes Baudelaire's image of the albatross with the damaged wing. The melody is very, very long - underpinned by Steve Rodby's bass, Lyle Mays' synthesizers and Paul Wertico's brushes - and resolves with such perfection it renders the sadness of the piece, of that which is not there, can never be, all the more poignant.

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