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Pat Metheny Group: Speaking of Now (2003)

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Pat Metheny Group: Speaking of Now No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Speaking of Now represents a new chapter of the Pat Metheny Group, maintaining the leader’s hold on his own sound while clearly testing the capabilities of his new lineup.

For the band’s eleventh studio record, Metheny has added a younger generation of players: Richard Bona, Cuong Vu and Antonio Sanchez – all from vastly different ethnic and musical cultures. The music within is fresh but Metheny treads carefully here while he and collaborators Lyle Mays and Steve Rodby cope with change. Much of this music defines how Pat Metheny sees his own future. (And Speaking of Now 's gorgeous liner art serves in an attempt to discourage MP3 file swapping. )

The record contains material to which we have become accustomed from PMG. “Proof” provides multi-dimensional explorations that feature keyboard player Lyle Mays in typically wondrous fashion. Metheny and Mays’ continued virtuosity is extended in “Another Life,” “The Gathering Sky” and “You.”

The new band members introduce new energy. We straighten up with the allure of trumpeter Cuong Vu’s three distinct solo forays. Drummer Antonio Sanchez declares a more inclusive, rhythmically frenetic framework through much of this music. Richard Bona has caused a tremendous stir in the New York jazz scene and it is easy to see why. His primary instrument is bass, but here his vocals shine in exquisite beauty (especially on “Another Life”). Metheny chose well.

According to the story, Cuong Vu’s membership hinged on a phone message. Metheny heard Vu’s independent work on an internet radio broadcast and found that he also resided in New York City. Imagine Vu’s predictable response to arriving home to a voice mail message suggesting that he meet Pat Metheny: “yeah right.” Metheny had to call again later before Vu believed it; he thought the first message was a practical joke. Cuong Vu’s trumpet work is no joke.

The newness of PMG’s young blood does cause the group to noticeably vacillate between new explorations and old sounds. If that mix doesn't work, immersion will likely fuse those distinctions in future recordings, which bear great potential.

Track Listing: As It Is; Proof; Another Life; The Gathering Sky; You; On Her Way; A Place in the World; Afternoon; Wherever You Go.

Personnel: Pat Metheny (acoustic, electric & synth guitars); Lyle Mays (acoustic piano, keyboards); Steve Rodby (acoustic bass); Richard Bona (vocals, percussion); Cuong Vu (trumpet, vocals); Antonio Sanchez (drums).

Record Label: Warner Bros.

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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