Pat Metheny Solo and Trio
November 9, 2003
It might serve useful to consider Pat Metheny’s chameleon-like activity as a musician akin to the trend-setting ways of Miles Davis. Like Davis, Metheny prefers to keep his sights on new horizons as opposed to recreating a known formula over and over again. While its true that the Pat Metheny Group remains at the center of his work, the guitarist chooses to split his time between other endeavors that have ranged from film soundtracks to a recent solo disc. On the heals of One Quiet Night, Metheny has recently hit the road performing a short solo set and then augmenting that with a new trio line-up that includes present Group drummer Antonio Sanchez and youthful jazz luminary Christian McBride on bass.
As part of the upcoming 25th anniversary of Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland, Metheny’s appearance marked one of several concerts that will take place prior to the actual festival run in April of 2004. It was also the first time that this type of a group has taken the stage at a hall normally reserved for the likes of the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra. It was a truly inspired pairing, with sound reinforcement kept to a minimum and the group balance presented perfectly. As previously mentioned, the first half hour of the show found Metheny performing solo, utilizing a number of guitars from his arsenal. “Last Train Home” opened most nights during the last Group tour and would get things underway here as well. The highlight of this portion of the evening would be a medley of iconic favorites including “Phase Dance,” “Minuano 6/8,” and “This Is Not America.” Metheny also unleashed the odd looking 42-string Pikasso guitar (I can remember him describing this axe in a previous show as a way to increase his chances of hitting the right note by seven) on a piece that recalled “Into the Dream.”
Once McBride and Sanchez took the stage it would be obvious that we were to hear another side of the guitarist’s personality that hadn’t been revealed before. The unmistakable talents of the Metheny’s previous trio partners Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart notwithstanding, the chemistry here was even stronger with a sizable amount of new material making the most of this partnership. McBride is one of those rare bass players who without fail finds just the right notes to complement the musical landscape. As for Sanchez, he proved to be even more impressive here in a smaller ensemble than as heard in the larger Group setting, his cymbal flourishes and the occasional spot where he’d drop in a beat with a cowbell attached to a foot pedal adding to the complex polyrhythmic support.
Pat’s admitted fondness for Ornette Coleman was brought to the fore in a performance of "Turnaround,” McBride’s solo hinting at the depth of his historical knowledge by the inclusion of a quote from another Ornette ditty, “Broadway Blues.” For “Question and Answer” Metheny unleashed his guitar synth and in between two extensive solo forays, Sanchez provided the dynamic contrast with some electronic echo, McBride also ‘plugging in’ with his own flanged effects. As the crowd leapt to their feet, the first encore featured Pat on his rendition of Horace Silver’s “Lonely Woman,” heard rarely since the guitarist’s initial recording of the piece on Rejoicing. A second piece would give a nod to ‘jam band’ devotees as the threesome brought forth a funkified “Cantaloupe Island,” complete with some histrionics from McBride on his fretless electric. Some two hours in duration, Metheny’s sets engaged dedicated listeners at every turn and one can only hope that some of this magic gets caught on tape either live or in the studio very soon.