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Metheny Boys Took Similar Steps but in Reverse Order

June 14, 1988|LEONARD FEATHER

The career of Mike Metheny has closely paralleled that of his brother, Pat. Like Pat, he started out on trumpet (but, unlike him, he stayed with the horn while Pat, to quote Mike, "got smart and switched to guitar, an instrument that doesn't require lips").

Like Pat, Mike was raised in Lees Summit, Mo., but wound up in Boston, playing and teaching at the Berklee College of Music. The odd aspect of all this is that the brothers did it in reverse order: Mike, who followed Pat to Boston and Berklee, is five years his senior, born in August, 1949.

Vietnam made the difference. While Pat, after high school and the University of Miami, went to Boston and joined Gary Burton's band before his teen years were over, Mike, after earning a degree at the University of Missouri, wound up in a military band in Washington from 1971 to 1974.

"Trumpet ran in our family," says Mike, who plays the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Wednesday. "My father was an automobile dealer who also played; my maternal grandmother performed occasionally with John Philip Sousa. I studied classical trumpet, and after the three years in the Army I went on to get my master's degree in music education from Northeast Missouri State University."

A Boston resident since 1976, he spent the first six years there on the faculty at Berklee. "I taught trumpet, harmony, ensemble, the works. But about five years ago, having been playing on the side, I realized that teaching and playing are both full-time jobs, so after trying to do both for six years I decided in 1983 to become a full-time player."

By that time Metheny had made his first album (now out of print), for a small label, Headfirst Records. For the most part, he was content to remain an active member of the New England jazz community, until an opportunity came along to resume recording, this time for a major label.

His first album for MCA/Impulse, "Day In--Night Out," set his mellow sound on fluegelhorn in focus, with brother Pat in the supporting group. Recently he followed it up with "Kaleidoscope." His supporting cast: Brad Hatfield on keyboards, Marshall Wood on acoustic and electric bass, and John Riley on drums.

"Art Farmer has been a major, major influence," he says. "He gets a wonderful sound on fluegelhorn; I just can't say enough good things about him."

In both albums, Metheny doubles on the EVI (electronic valve instrument), invented by Nyle Steiner. "I didn't take this instrument very seriously when it first came out, but then Pat gave me one as a present, and it's been an important part of the band ever since. It looks like a big bug sprayer, but it's capable of some interesting sounds, although the fluegelhorn is still really my main thing."

Mike Metheny's generally understated style and subtly lyrical melodic sense, along with the technical expertise resulting from his classical training, are gradually earning him the recognition that his Boston-rooted years would not allow. Currently on a 10-day tour of the West Coast, he says: "It's taken awhile, but now the pieces seem to be falling into place."

Mike Metheny will play the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $13.50. Information: (714) 496-8927.

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