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DVD/Video/Film Reviews

Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project

By Published: October 26, 2012
Not since Norwegian artists like saxophonist Hakon Kornstad
Hakon Kornstad
Hakon Kornstad
, whose superb Symphonies Inside My Head (Jazzland, 2011) was a similar example of constructing new compositions in real time, by creating all kinds of loops and then knowing where they have been stored, in order to bring them in and out in varying permutations and combinations, to go beyond the concept of simple looping into the realm of complex, spontaneous compositional construction. But Kornstad was dealing with a couple of saxophones, a clarinets and flutonette; Metheny is dealing with far more variables, making his ability to create in-the-moment compositions of truly orchestral proportions-even using a harmonizer to create modulations within the piece-all the more impressive.

Other highlights include a blown bottle-driven version of "Tell Her You Saw Me," first heard with a real orchestra on Secret Story (Nonesuch, 1992) and here performed with even greater poignancy and lyricism. Metheny's monumental technique has occasionally distanced him from some of the innate melodicism that has built his fan base over the years, but on tracks like this, "Antonia" (also from Secret Story), "Unity Village" and "Sueño con México," it's clear that melody is still an important part of who he is.

The second disc on the DVD edition (the Blu-Ray, with greater storage capacity, is just a single disc) also includes a 15-minute "Making Of" documentary, 20-minute interview with Metheny, the original Electronic Press Kit (EPK) and two opportunities to watch the actual recording process. With 5.1 surround and PCM stereo, the sound is pristine and, when it needs to be, punchy-something the original studio recording of Orchestrion lacked.

As Metheny continues to utilize his mini-Orchestrion in the studio and on the road, those who missed out on the original tour will still have the opportunity to catch him using it in a live context. But it's highly unlikely that he'll take the full-blown model out on tour ever again, making The Orchestrion Project the closest thing to being there for those who missed the tour and an opportunity for those who did to relive it once again. For the naysayers, The Orchestrion Project offers a deeper window into the project, and the chance to either reevaluate or reaffirm their position. Whatever the reason, The Orchestrion Project is further evidence that Metheny's individual projects may vary in their target audience, but like them or not on an individual basis, it's hard to imagine anyone but Metheny successfully launching such an ambitious project and tour, executing it with his signature combination of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic sophistication, and the unfailing Midwestern lyricism that's underscored so much of his now four-decade career.

Tracks: DVD1: Unity Village; Orchestrion Suite: Orchestrion, Entry Point, Expansion, Soul Search, Spirit of the Air; Sueño con Mexíco; Improvisation #2; Stranger in Town; Credits. Bonus: Improvisation #1; 80/81-Broadway Blues; Tell Her You Saw Me; Antonia. DVD2: The Making of Orchestrion; Pat Metheny Interview; Original EPK; Studio Sessions: Orchestrion, Expansion.

Personnel: Pat Metheny: acoustic and electric guitars, guitar synth, Pikasso 42-String guitar, Orchestrion.

Run Times: DVD1: Main Film: 87 mins; Bonus: 21 mins. DVD 2: The Making of Orchestrion: 15 mins; Interview: 20 mins; EPK: 7 mins; Studio Sessions: 25 mins. Directed by Pierre and François Lamoreux.

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