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In Depth Interview With Mark Egan by Jake Kot

Mark: I met Pat at the University of Miami in 71 or 72. I was blown away with him the first time I heard him. We played together in a lot of the big bands, and some smaller bands as well. We also played some duos, and jammed quite a bit many a night till all hours in the morning. He ended up moving to Boston to play with Gary Burton and also to teach at Berklee. Fast forward…it was 1976. I was playing with David Sanborn and I was already on the New York scene and doing a lot of studio work, and Pat called and asked me to join his band. It was a difficult decision, but a good decision that I joined it. I was playing with David Sanborn as I mentioned, and Pat at that time wasn’t very well known. He had done a couple of recordings, Bright Size Life and Watercolors, and this was his first time going on tour with a group which would include Danny Gottlieb, Lyle Mays, Pat, and myself. We did one rehearsal in Boston, and I knew that this was going to be a very creative project, and that I would enjoy being involved with it. So I told David Sanborn I was going to leave and join a band with Pat Metheny and he said, WHO? But he was supportive, and I realized I was going from a very established situation, which included my session work, to getting in the band with Pat and moving our own equipment and traveling about 300 days a year playing in small clubs, and colleges, and smaller venues. But again, it was a musical decision, and it was a great experience playing with that band. Those records we did seem to hold up.

Jake: One of the things I remember that I was impressed with as far as that particular ensemble is concerned was the entire bands sense of dynamics, and how powerful that was. I’d never heard a quartet be so in-tune with each other.

Mark: Well, the main writers in that band were obviously Pat and Lyle, and a big focus, not only in terms of the arrangements and the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic concepts, was the use of dynamics. We were very, very aware of that, which is a very powerful tool for any band. And I think it’s something that a lot people seem to forget about. When I’m working with different players, or doing a clinic, or working one on one with a student, I try to stress how the use of dynamics is a very important tool to have command of. You want to be aware of being able to play really soft, and really loud, and see the full spectrum that’s available to you…it’s almost like a meter, from left to right. And this is something that we implemented with the Pat Metheny group. We’d go from really loud, to down to nothing. It’s nothing new, but it’s a very effective tool. It’s always been a huge part of classical music and orchestral music, and we really tried to make that apparent in the band. As far as dynamics are concerned, another noteworthy point is mentioning that, specifically on electric instruments, people have to be aware of their touch…bass players especially. When I’m teaching, I always make a point to get the student to focus on playing as soft as they possibly can, and then progress to the loudest point that they can, to help them understand the full dynamic range that’s available to them. It’s very similar to the way we speak as humans. Hopefully, you don’t speak in a monotone voice…you’re using dynamics all the time. If people were more aware of this analogy, this is something they could easily bring into their playing. It can literally take a player to another level.

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