One of the most original guitarists from the '80s onward (he is instantly recognizable), Pat Metheny is a chance-taking player who has gained great popularity but also taken some wild left turns. His records with the Pat Metheny Group are difficult to describe (folk-jazz? mood music?) but managed to be both accessible and original, stretching the boundaries of jazz and making Metheny famous enough so he could perform whatever type of music he wants without losing his audience.
Metheny (whose older brother is the trumpeter Mike Metheny) started on guitar when he was 13. He developed quickly, taught at both the University of Miami and Berklee while he was a teenager, and made his recording debut with Paul Bley and Jaco Pastorius in 1974. He spent an important period (1974-1977) with Gary Burton's group; met keyboardist Lyle Mays; and in 1978 formed his group, which originally featured Mays, bassist Mark Egan, and drummer Dan Gottlieb. Within a short period he was ECM's top artist and one of the most popular of all jazzmen, selling out stadiums. Metheny mostly avoided playing predictable music and his freelance projects were always quite interesting.
His 1980 album 80/81 featured Dewey Redman and Mike Brecker in a post-bop quintet; he teamed up with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins on a trio date in 1983; and two years later recorded the very outside Song X with Ornette Coleman. Among Metheny's other projects away from the group were a sideman recording with Sonny Rollins; a 1990 tour with Herbie Hancock in a quartet; a trio album with Dave Holland and Roy Haynes; and a collaboration (and tour) with Joshua Redman. Although his Zero Tolerance for Silence in 1994 was largely a waste (40 minutes of feedback), Pat Metheny retained his popularity and remained a consistently creative performer. The most original record of the Group up till now remains "Quartet". "One Quiet Night" is a solo acoustic recording (mostly recorded in one quiet night), "The Way Up" tries to start a new direction for a new group (including Mays).