pat-methenyPat Metheny

Jazz is often divided into the traditionalists and the risk-takers. Pat Metheny passionately considers himself a proud member of the latter set. The Missouri native has been releasing acclaimed albums for four decades, each one a new wrinkle in the development of jazz. Although best known for his freelance ventures and work with his Pat Metheny Group, the guitarist has enjoyed numerous collaborations, ranging from such stylistic stalwarts as Dave Brubeck to fellow experimentalists Herbie Hancock and Ornette Coleman to pop music idols David Bowie and Joni Mitchell. And he's dabbled in the world of film and television, composing soundtracks for features that include "The Falcon and the Snowman" and "A Map of the World." Along the way he's racked up an astonishing 19 Grammy Awards and managed to sell 20 million records.

"I once was hired to play on a jazz festival in Palermo, Italy. The trio that I had at that time was Charlie Hayden and Billy Higgins. First of all, we got to the gig and there were signs everywhere that said Pat Metheny Group. And what we were playing was nothing like that. I was completely freaked out about that. Then they said, 'We'll take you to the venue.'

"So we started driving through Palermo and I noticed that we were getting closer and closer to what appeared to be the largest soccer stadium on the island of Sicily.

"I was like, 'No!'

"Sure enough, that's where we were playing. Then we get there and I notice that the stage is in the direct center of the soccer field. It's 150 yards from the stands. I'm thinking they're going to let people come out on the grass and they'll all be standing around the thing. And we get out there, and there were barriers around the stage.

"I'm like, 'Can we move these barriers and let people get closer?'

"The guy looked at me and said, 'We don't let anybody on the grass.'

"So the nearest person is like half a football field away in this stadium that seated about 70,000 people -- and there were about 20,000 people there. And the PA they had was basically like the kind you'd have at a wedding. Plus, Charlie and Billy were the softest rhythm section in jazz. So we did our best, but that was a pretty rough night. It was just surreal and wrong."

— Pat Metheny