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Field Notes: Pat Metheny at the Detroit Jazz Festival

A jazz celebrity as artist-in-residence

Pat Metheny (l.) and Antonio Sanchez, Detroit Jazz Festival 2015
Pat Metheny (l.) and Gary Burton, Detroit Jazz Festival, 2015
Pat Metheny (l.) and Ron Carter, Detroit Jazz Festival, 2015
Trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's Stretch Music at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015
Anat Cohen, Eddie Daniels, Ken Peplowski and Paquito D'Rivera (from left) in "Benny's Threads" at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival
James "Blood" Ulmer at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015
James Carter at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015
John Scofield (left) and Joe Lovano at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015
Paquito D'Rivera at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015
Ron Carter (left) and Pat Metheny at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015
Chicago's the Fat Babies at the Detroit Jazz Festival, September 2015

Is Pat Metheny the last of the true-blue jazz stars? There have been jazz musicians since him who’ve cultivated enough cachet to be interviewed by 60 Minutes and win token awards from arts organizations, but Metheny might be the last jazz figure who’s a cultural touchstone in the general sense, a celebrity who creates shared experiences for a generation-in the case of the guitarist, now 61, that primarily means music fans born during the middle and late stages of the baby boom.

At Detroit’s annual admission-free jazz festival, where he was artist-in-residence, giving a performance on each of the event’s four dates, his star power was conspicuous. When he opened and closed the festival in its largest venues, the crowd surged to fill every nook of available space, offering levels of applause to make arena-rockers envious and shouting the names of the indelible folk- and pop-like melodies they wanted to hear. On the remaining evenings, Metheny was scheduled on the festival’s two midsize stages, which incited feeding frenzies and pointed up one of the organizers’ few missteps.

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