KEVIN AT HIS MOST SUBLIME, IN WORDS AND MUSIC

Kevin could summon beautiful words as well as beautiful music. Below is his luminously phrased application to the Berklee School of Music in Boston, which he wrote at age 16. It is followed by the soundtrack to his extraordinary, probing solo in “Summertime,” a performance he gave at Castleton College less than three months before his suicide.
Kevin Powers Berklee Application Essay

Kevin Powers

Musical Experience

Kevin performing at the Berklee School of Music
Kevin performing at the Berklee School of Music

As a musician, one of the most profound events I experienced was getting my first Pat Metheny CD.  I was in eighth grade and the CD was “Like Minds,” a Christmas present from my dad.  It featured Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Roy Haynes and Dave Holland.  This was my first exposure to the jazz art form.  Hearing that CD made me want to play jazz guitar.

From the first chord of the first song, something unexplainable made me listen more intently than I ever dreamed I would to a jazz recording.  Gary Burton’s solo was intense.  His playing was classy and smooth but not cheesy, his melodic runs and progressive energy were all there.  When Pat started his solo, this was the first time I decided to give a new player a chance.  I was, up until then, a die-hard for the rock scene.  I had never heard someone play jazz in a way that inspired me to.  That all changed with Pat’s playing.

His solo was begun in a manner that made him sound like he was in my room talking to me, telling me all the great things the guitar could offer.  He started a little behind the beat with a short concise phrase and much as the title of the song would suggest, “Question and Answer,” the second phrase followed the first one perfectly.  It was so lyrical and melodic.  I had always enjoyed Joe Pass; however, I appreciate the two for different reasons now.  I had never heard improvisation that was in a sense a melody itself.  Pat was doing this.  I had heard over and over again from camps that I attended that “space” was important, that one’s solo needs to “breathe.”  Now it became clear to me why.  It was happening here.

As soon as I was at the next record store, I bought a Pat Metheny Group CD.  I realized that what I had heard on “Like Minds” was probably a small pixel in the larger scope of this guy.  For a period of about a full year, each successive CD of his that I bought was more interesting than the last.  Pat’s compositional ability is hard to comprehend.  His songs are so expressive and the forms are so intricate.  The most memorable experience I will have is attending the National Guitar Summer Workshop in New Milford, CT, where Pat came and spoke to us.  It was three hours with the words from the man himself about what he has been doing, does and will be doing in the future.  He is one of my biggest inspirations and I am very lucky to have been able to hear his music and see him.

Click below to listen to the track Summertime with Kevin Powers on guitar and Jonathan Lorentz on saxophone.