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Pat Metheny: From This Place

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Pat Metheny: From This Place
When a musician of Pat Metheny's pedigree writes, "From This Place is one of the records I have been waiting to make my whole life," it seems prudent to listen.

Each of these ten new compositions seems to reflect a different aspect of Metheny as composer and guitarist, casting his bright and articulate voice in various configurations of his core band (Welsh pianist Gwilym Simcock, Malaysian/Australian bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Antonio Sanchez, whose tenure with the guitarist reaches back to 2002's kaleidoscopic Speaking of Now [Warner Bros.]), plus guests MeShell NdegeOcello (vocals), Gregoire Maret (harmonica), and Luis Conte (percussion), along with the Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra.

Listening to From This Place is like drinking from a firehouse: There is just so much great music that it's almost mind-boggling to hear it all in one sitting. Make the time to take your time with this one.

Simcock's capacity to engage musically and emotionally on piano with Metheny's guitar honors the memory of Lyle Mays' beautiful tenure in the Pat Metheny Group with a warm and bright glow. Simcock opens the ballad "You Are" with a twinkling piano lullaby that slowly but steadily grows stronger but remains supple. When the sound of Sanchez' wordless vocal helps the rhythm rise and swell, the leader's circle back to his own First Circle (1984, ECM) sounds complete, and piano tucks away the song for the night under a soft blanket of gorgeous notes.

The opening widescreen travelogue journeys for more than thirteen sprawling minutes and reaches several exhilarating destinations but still leaves "America Undefined." Simcock sounds mellow piano chimes to counterpoint Metheny's guitar, then jackrabbits into a steeplechase with the rhythm section to drive the melody hard. The second half of "America Undefined" kind of sounds like the first half of "America Undefined" just floats up into the air and disintegrates into pieces: Weird electronic sound wobbles across the speakers, a clanging train bell zips past, the music collapses upon itself and then explodes like a brilliant star in a bluesy march full of atmosphere and orchestral strings and power and majesty...a genuine cinematic treat for your ears, a truly awesome composition, and most likely one of Metheny's best.

The title track was inspired by the seismic shift in US politics institutionalized by the November 2016 election, with vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello breathing soul and fire into Metheny's lyrics. Conductor Joel McNeely swaddles "Love May Take Awhile," another Metheny guitar ballad so lyrically beautiful you almost feel him singing through his guitar strings, in the sweet orchestral sound of Nelson Riddle and may be the guitarist's cautionary response to his own title track.

From This Place is a genuine masterpiece because it simultaneously consolidates all the styles in which we've heard Pat Metheny play but does more than just look back: It steps into new directions and sounds that make his future seem as exciting as his legendary past.

Track Listing

America Undefined; Wide and Far; You Are; Same River; Pathmaker; The Past in Us; Everything Explained; From This Place; Sixty-Six; Love May Take Awhile.

Personnel

Pat Metheny: guitar; Gwilym Simcock: piano; Linda May Han Oh: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums; MeShell NdegeOcello: bass, electric; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Luis Conte: percussion; Hollywood Studio Symphony: band/orchestra.

Album information

Title: From This Place | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

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