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Doing it Pat’s ‘Way’

Grammy fave shifts labels for new disc

It’s a rare year that guitarist Pat Metheny isn’t nominated for a Grammy.

The prolific recording-and-touring performer has won 16 trophies, the most of any jazz artist, and has been nominated 29 times. Most impressively, Metheny had seven consecutive releases all win Grammys.

The last year, on the heels of winning the new age album trophy for his solo disc “One Quiet Night,” has seen Metheny moving his Metheny Group Prods. to Warner Music’s Nonesuch from Warner Bros. proper and the recording of “The Way Up.”

Released Jan. 25, “The Way Up” is a 68-minute piece divided into four sections that is among his most adventurous work to date. He is performing the work on a tour that starts Feb. 18 in Toronto and ends June 3 in Paris. (He performs March 4 at Universal Amphitheatre, April 1 and 2 at Gotham’s Beacon Theatre).

“We spent six weeks writing and at the end wound up with a 300-page score, which we approached like shooting a script by doing it out of sequence,” says Metheny, who practiced seven or eight hours a day to conquer the composition’s complexity. “The first couple of gigs might be raw but I expect it to evolve nicely.”

Metheny is among the growing number of jazz musicians finding themselves out of the major label realm and setting up shop either on their own or with smaller imprints. He actually saw it coming when he left ECM for Geffen Records two decades ago and set up Metheny Group Prods., which leases its recordings.

Metheny’s Geffen albums, which include Grammy winners “Still Life (Talking),” “Letter From Home” and “Secret Story” plus his landmark recording with Ornette Coleman, “Song X,” are now back in Metheny’s possession. Nonesuch, the Warner Music imprint known for releases by Buena Vista Social Club, Bill Frisell and Kronos Quartet, will be re-releasing the Metheny efforts, starting with “Song X” later this year. “Song X” will include six previously unreleased tunes.

“I never wanted the headache of actually administering a label,” Metheny says. “But I wanted the freedom to do things my way. As long as you can keep an audience intrigued and maintain a level of curiosity about the records, you’re keeping up your end of the bargain. We’ve never compromised — and we’ve gotten away with it.”

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