Pat Metheny: Trio 99-00
Columnist since 1999An avid audiophile and music collector, Hovan is a Cleveland-based writer/photographer.
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There's really no surefire way to avoid all the hyperbole when discussing the exploits of the multi-faceted Pat Metheny. He is a genuine musician in all sense of the word, capable of distinguishing himself in everything he does, from soundtracks to avant-garde jazz. That he also happens to hit on a judicious mix that finds him popular with those who probably couldn't tell the difference between John Coltrane and Sonny Stitt is not an accident. For all his technical proficiency and ingeniousness, Metheny is at once a very emotionally-based player, able to bring a tear to the eye or a rousing shout to the voice.
Over the course of some 20 years of recording, Metheny has utilized the trio format on only three other occasions prior to Trio 99-00 - on 1975's Bright Size Life, Rejoicing from the mid-'80s, and the more recent Question and Answer. And as distinguished as each one of these releases is in Metheny's catalog, arguably this latest trip into "trio land" is his finest hour. Taking nothing away from his venerable sidemen on the previous albums, it occurs to this reviewer that the talents of Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart, both a bit younger than Metheny, inspire him in a fresh and distinct manner. Obviously the connection was there, because all the tracks were first takes that were committed to tape without so much as a listen to the playback.
As with all of Metheny's work, much thought was given to the selection of tunes. The majority of the cuts are originals, some new and others making a repeat performance, such as "Travels", "Lone Jack", and "We Had a Sister". In addition, there's the Metheny take on such standards as "Giant Steps" (with shifting accents over a light bossa groove), Wayne Shorter's "Capricorn", and the showtune "A Lot of Livin' To Do".
On three of the disc's ten tracks, Metheny utilizes the acoustic guitar in an almost folkloric manner. Bringing to mind similar efforts from the Travels album (the title track of which is reprised here), one can't help but be moved by the shear beauty and heartfelt timbre the guitarist achieves. Completing the triumvirate, "We Had a Sister" was written for Joshua Redman's second record, Wish, while the dark and brooding "Just Like the Day" was inspired by the trio's tour of Italy.
Throughout the proceedings, Grenadier and Stewart are fully-participating partners and each gets the lion's share of solo space as well. Stewart's forays, in particular, seem so well suited to Metheny's modus operandi- quirky and pointed and far from the customary (check out his spots on "What Do You Want?" and "Lone Jack"). As refined as Trio 99-00 is, it wouldn't be a surprise if this one made it on a lot of people's lists as a highpoint of the jazz year 2000.
Track Listing: (Go) Get It; Giant Steps; Just Like The Day; Soul Cowboy; The Sun In Montreal; Capricorn; We Had A Sister; What Do You Want?; A Lot Of Livin' To Do; Lone Jack; Travels.
Personnel: Pat Metheny: guitar; Larry Grenadier: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.