When Pat Metheny’s quartet record “Unity Band” was nominated in December for a Grammy for best instrumental jazz album, it marked the 36 time the Lee’s Summit native has garnered a nomination. A 19-time winner at the Grammy awards, Metheny has the track record and support to collect No. 20 Feb. 10 in Los Angeles.
Metheny, who was a paperboy for the Journal for two years in 1966-67 – he used the money to buy a better guitar than he already owned when he was 13 – and “Unity Band” collaborators Chris Potter, Ben Williams, and Antonio Sanchez will attend the gala, but Metheny will also bring along family members to soak it all in.
The jazz great took the time recently to talk with the Journal about his latest nomination, how he and his band mates celebrated the nod, and the role Unity Village played in the naming of the band.
The Journal: “Unity Band” was recently nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. Does that type of recognition ever get old?
Metheny: It is always a thrill to get that kind of recognition, and always unexpected. There are so many people out there making so much great music in my general field of music. It is a real honor.
The Journal: 19 Grammy awards in, what do you consider some of your keys to success?
Metheny: I have always just tried to make music that is interesting to me as a fan of music. I really try to block out what anyone else thinks about it and try to stay true to my own sense of what makes something work on musical level.
The Journal: You were born and raised here in Lee’s Summit. Do you still have family here? Where do you call home these days and when was the last time you were back in the Lee’s Summit/Kansas City area?
Metheny: Yes, I have always been proud to have been from Lee’s Summit. I grew up there as did my dad (Dave Metheny, who lives out at John Knox Village). My grandfather (Harrison Metheny) came to the area at a young age. Sadly my wonderful mom passed away recently. Having grown up in a place like Lee’s Summit is somewhat unlikely as a background for a jazz musician, but I have really drawn from my early life experiences there in a pretty big way as a musician. Now I live in New York City with my wife, Latifa, and our three kids, Nicolas, Jeffrey and Maya. We come out as often as we can to visit. My brother Mike still lives there too at Lake Winnebago.
The Journal: Talk a little about your latest project with Unity Band.
Metheny: Having grown up in such close proximity to Unity Village was significant in my life. Our family and the Fillmore family have had a connection for many years in many ways. Every Sunday night for decades, there were Unity Band concerts at the old amphitheater at Unity and our family attended them regularly. Eventually my brother started playing in the band as a teenager as I did too. The phrase “Unity Band” sort of brings to my mind the whole idea of playing music out on a summer night in a really good way. That said, the band and the music played under the auspices of my “Unity Band” is really quite different other than that feeling of summer. It is an incredible group of very different musicians who have come together from a lot of different backgrounds to make a sound that hopefully does offer some sense of unity in a broader sense of the word to the world.
The Journal: Give us a little insight on how you and your band members celebrated the latest Grammy nod and any big plans if you win No. 20?
Metheny: I am not a big one for celebrating, but I did get a kick out of letting the other guys know that we were nominated this time because we have such a special connection as musicians. I am going to go to the ceremony this time for only the second time. Usually I am on tour and can’t make it. But the real reason I am going this time is because our oldest son (Nicolas) is a huge Black Keys fan and they are performing on the concert and he really wants to see them.