It's way too early in the New Year to be making sensible predictions, but hey, let's drive in the center of the road for a moment: if guitarist Pat Metheny's Day Trip
doesn't end up amongst the top half-dozen albums of 2008, some very powerful voodoo indeed must be coming round the corner.
Day Trip is, unquestionably, amongst Metheny's best ever discs, up there with previous masterpieces like Song X (Nonesuch, 1985), made with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and Trio 99-00 (Warner Bros, 1999), whose guitar/bass/drums line-up and in-the-tradition aesthetic it replicates. It's gorgeous, shimmering, voluptuous music, gloriously free of the fusion excesses which have marred many of Metheny's projects with larger line-ups.
The album was recorded at New York's Right Track studio in a single day in October 2005, between gigs, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez. A loose, heads and solos, tune-up-and-go feel permeates the session, on which Metheny proves that he is, when he chooses to be, today's most gifted practitioner of the flowing, consummately lyrical style of guitar playing forged by Johnny Smith in the 1950s.
All ten tunes are Metheny originals; most inhabit the bright and effervescent territory for which he's become best known, but not all. "Is This America? (Katrina 2005)," one of two tracks on which Metheny plays the acoustic guitar, is a lament for the devastation visited on New Orleans in 2005, and by implication a criticism of the inadequate Federal response to it. It's followed by "When We Were Free," a loaded title and an appropriately edgy tune. With these two tracks, one is reminded of Metheny's nicely judged comments on the Reagan administration (seems like he's retained the attitude along with the hair).
Among other highlights is the riff-driven, blues-based "Calvin's Keys," a tune which would have sat happily in the Wes Montgomery set-book circa The Incredible Jazz Guitar (Riverside, 1960), but around which Metheny casts his own inimitable harmonic spell. Less successful, to these ears anyway, is the rock/reggae outing, "The Red One," revisited from Metheny's collaboration with John Scofield on I Can See Your House From Here (Blue Note, 1994). Metheny is simply too sophisticated a stylist to get down and nasty with total conviction, though he makes a fair stab at it.
Aside from that small question mark, Day Trip, overflowing with brio and melodicism, is a triumph.