Pat Metheny, Orchestrion Tour in Denver
Overall, the music from Orchestrion and most of the rest of the music he performed in Denver had the sound of the Pat Metheny Group. Over the years, Metheny has recorded dozens of albums, only about half with his group. The solo albums have covered a vast stretch of musical territory, from quiet solo guitar albums to challenging avant-garde jazz with and/or inspired by Ornette Coleman to lush orchestral works. The Pat Metheny Group's music has evolved over the years, but it has retained a readily identifiable sound that includes beautiful, soaring melodies that are at once accessible and musically complex. The music on Orchestrion and on the current tour fits most closely with the Pat Metheny Group sound. Anyone just listening and not seeing how the music is being created would assume the sounds were coming from an entire band of five to seven musicians. Still, it sometimes could sound a little mechanical and not quite as spontaneous and free as music created by a stage full of improvising jazz musicians.
Whatever the ultimate assessment of Metheny's experiment, whether the conclusion is that this is merely a gimmick, a musical dead-end or the start of something new, it is impossible to deny that this concept is completely unique in the extent and complexity of automated music making. It is also obviously highly creative and comes from a musician who clearly is never satisfied with the status quo and continues to search for something new. And for that, he deserves some admiration. Not just for the machine, but also because he's finally moved away from the blue and white stripped shirt he seemed to wear for several decades and is now wearing a solid blue shirt in concert.