Pat Metheny Unity Band: Kennett Square, PA, August 9, 2012
For the uninitiated, the Orchestrion is a Rube Goldberg-like contraption inspired by similar nineteenth century inventions. Built from various pieces of percussion, each instrument is activated by a MIDI-guitar interface, which was first revealed on Orchestrion (Nonesuch, 2010). For this tour, he brought along a smaller (albeit no less impressive) version. Moving back and forth across the stage, cueing an array of lighted bells, chimes and tuned bottles with his guitar and effects pedals, Metheny looked like a mad scientist. Although it could have easily blossomed into an absurd parody of the proverbial one man band, Metheny's sensitivity to dynamics avoided virtuosic grandstanding; his sidemen joined in periodically, eventually elevating the tune's optimistic theme into a driving mantra that transcended stylistic limitations.
Providing sonic respite in the aftermath of the magisterial Orchestrion piece, Metheny engaged in a series of intimate duets with each member of the band. Offering them an opportunity to demonstrate their respective abilities as improvisers in the literal spotlight, Metheny spun circuitous variations with Potter on the Jerome Kern classic, "All The Things You Are;" traded bluesy motifs with Williams on Coleman's "Turnaround;" and executed a blazing version of his angular anthem "Go Get It," with Sanchez. After reintroducing the band members, they collectively launched into a hearty version of the album closer, "Breakdealer," ending the set with a string of blistering solos.
After a standing ovation from the capacity crowd, the band returned to perform a stripped-down version of the old Pat Metheny Group song "Are You Going With Me?." The tune's Latinized rhythms permeated the late night air as spectators leisurely strolled into the gardens to view Bruce Munro's charming light sculptures. The further one wandered, the more distant the sound of Metheny's guitar became, until waves of appreciative audience applause were finally overcome by the sound of cricketsa perfect ending to an exceptional evening.