While the trio format isn't new to guitarist Pat Metheny, Day Trip
does represent a number of firsts. And with only one minor quibble, if it's not the best trio record he's released since Bright Size Life
(ECM, 1976), it's pretty darn close.
It's his first trio record to consist of all-original material. And, with the exception of the simmering waltz "When We Were Free," from Pat Metheny Group's Quartet (Nonesuch, 1996) and the rock/reggae-tinged "The Red One," from I Can See Your House from Here (Blue Note, 1994), Metheny's collaboration with John Scofield, the remaining eight tunes appear on a Metheny album for the first time. True, the bossa nova-inflected "Snova" and fierier "Son of Thirteen" first surfaced on Alex Sipiagin's Returning (Criss Cross, 2005); but these stripped down but no less harmonically rich versions contrast with the trumpeter's twin-horn quintet takes, opening up in completely different ways, especially on "Snova," where Metheny's warm, hollow-body electric creates a more expansive feel than Adam Rogers' nylon-string acoustic on Sipiagin's version.
Day Trip and Returning are also linked by the common element of Antonio Sanchez who, appearing here and with Metheny on last year's reunion tour with Gary Burton, is the first Metheny Group drummer recruited by the guitarist for a variety of other projects. It's no surprise that the ever-flexible and vibrant Sanchez is Metheny's drummer of choice these days. He may bristle with energy on the knotty and high-speed "Let's Move," but he's equally capable of gentle brushwork on the Americana-informed "Is This America? (Katrina 2005)," further evidence of Metheny's innate ability to write lyrical and instantly memorable song forms.
Bassist Christian McBride fleshes out the group and, while one hesitates to draw comparisons to illustrious bassists in previous Metheny trios, he's undeniably the perfect closing side to this equilateral triangle. His robust tone anchors "When We Were Free" and the ambling swing of the blues-based "Calvin's Keys," and he's the first acoustic bassist to go arco with Metheny, delivering an economically melodic solo on "Is This America?"
As ever, Metheny manages to sound unmistakably, well, Metheny, while continuing to break new ground gradually; his increasing ability to self-accompany sounds occasionally overdubbed despite this being a live in the studio recording made in just one day. His hollow-body tone dominates, but he brings out nylon-string and steel-string acoustics respectively for "Is This America?" and the more harmonically complex ballad, "Dreaming Trees." Only "The Red One" and the latter half of "When We Were Free"both using his horn-like guitar synthseem out of place amidst the lush textures heard throughout the rest of the album.
This is, however, a minor criticism on an album recordedunlike previous trio studio discsafter significant road-testing of the material. Day Trip's distinguishing characteristics aside, it's the guitarist's most well-honed trio to date, and if a minor misstep prevents it from being his definitive trio disc, it's still a fine addition to the half dozen trio records he's released since 1976.