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Metheny's melodic side is also in evidence throughout his haunting score for the film version of Jane Hamilton's novel A Map of the World (Warner Bros.). Its spacious, Coplandesque lyricism is clearly the work of a composer who grew up on the prairie's edge (he comes from Lee's Summit, a suburb of Kansas City). "The geography of Missouri has had an incredibly strong aesthetic impact on me," he says. "You see everything from a distance. You look out and there's a tree, and 25 miles beyond it there's a pond. And whenever I'm playing or writing, I see that landscape in my mind all the time."
Metheny shuns labels for his polystylistic music--particularly fusion, a term he feels has "nothing but negative connotations"--preferring to describe it as jazz, pure and simple. "Jazz is the all-inclusive form," he explains. "There's room for everybody, for anything of true musical substance. Jazz guys like Duke Ellington or Miles Davis have always transformed the elements of the pop culture that surrounds us into something more sophisticated and hipper. It's their job."
One label, however, meets with his wholehearted approval. Veteran bassist Charlie Haden, a longtime admirer and sometime collaborator (Rejoicing, Beyond the Missouri Sky), calls Metheny's music "contemporary impressionistic Americana." Asked to comment, the guitarist breaks out in a smile as wide as the Great Plains. "I like that one," he says. "I'll buy that." Us too.