To say that guitarist Pat Metheny is jazzed up to perform a broad selection from his more than four-decade, 60-album playlist at Stony Brook’s Staller Center for the Arts is an understatement. “It has that cool thing of being New York without being exactly New York,” the 20-time Grammy winner says of playing the area gig. “You get the sophistication and knowledge of a New York audience but with that unique kind of Long Island enthusiasm.”
The Missouri-born musician has not only developed a following with area jazz buffs but is also hugely popular with, as one correspondent colorfully described them, “the sort of people who wouldn’t know jazz if they found it in their breakfast cereal.”
Metheny, 64, keeps his audiences engaged by parading his hits while also pushing the acoustic and stylistic boundaries of his instrument. “As far as sound goes, I am pretty happy to play in a really dense way, or a really sparse way, or really loud or really soft or all over the dynamic range, really inside the chords or outside the chords, whatever seems to sound best for what is happening at that particular moment,” he says.
The jazz man broke with his family’s music tradition when, after seeing The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he opted to play the guitar over mastering the trumpet. Metheny remembers hearing his grandfather, father and older brother practicing the brass instrument in their basement. He, on the other hand, rapidly moved from pretending to jam on a broom to becoming a crowd-pleasing, guitar-playing prodigy, securing teaching positions when he was in his late teens at the University of Miami and Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
Attracted by its hornlike qualities, Metheny was one of the first jazz guitarists to embrace the synthesizer. He was also an early champion of the 12-string guitar, first featured on his debut album, “Bright Size Life” (1976), and has played a custom-made 42-string Pikasso throughout his career. “This tour is a bit more simple,” Metheny admits of the show’s program, “but given that it is me, that still means five or six different guitars along the way.”
The Staller lineup also turns the spotlight on each of his accomplished band members — pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Antonio Sanchez, who also scored the 2014 movie “Birdman” — all of whom, notes Metheny, “come with a real deep knowledge of my thing” from their early days as musicians.
The appreciation is reciprocal. “When I really love the music that someone makes, it naturally follows for me that I want to understand it and know exactly how it works," he says. "That often leads to a kind of shared vocabulary that opens up the possibility of making music together.”
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'An Evening With Pat Metheny'
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nichols Rd., Stony Brook
INFO $52; 631-632-2787, stallercenter.com