Pat Metheny is one of my favorite guitarists to watch – not only because of his utter mastery of the instrument, and not only because he brought jazz to an entire generation of mainstream Americans by fusing an unpretentious garage-rock sensibility with the modular and rhythmic complexity of top-notch jazz composition (1980’s American Garage reached #53 on the pop charts). The thing I love most about Metheny is the way he loses himself so completely in the experience of musical expression that everything about his playing, from his phrasing to his frills to his posture to his facial expressions, seems a naked display of the soul of a true artist. This kind of intensity is something that all the exercises and all the theoretical knowledge in the world cannot produce.
Here’s Metheny performing his arrangement of Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why. Of all the voices on the pop and jazz scenes today, Jones’ is among the best in terms of both soulfulness and raw ability, and only an instrumentalist as lyrical and expressive as Metheny would be capable of conveying the emotional power in this song without help from a human voice.