Pat Metheny Trio at Chicago Symphony Center

Paul Olson By

Sign in to view read count
Pat Metheny Trio
Symphony Center, Chicago
September 30, 2005
The Chicago Symphony Center's 2005/2006 Jazz at Symphony Center season came to an auspicious beginning as perhaps the biggest name in jazz music, guitarist Pat Metheny, brought the newest version of his trio to the ornate, acoustically impeccable Center. Metheny's last album, the Pat Metheny Group's wonderful The Way Up, was his best Metheny Group recording in some time, but the band's tour seemed to play every city on the earth in a concert milieu that, in its pyrotechnical heft and grandeur, left little to chance. It was also pretty great, but it might have left Metheny craving something a little more scaled-down.
Metheny's trios have always provided a less bombastic, more spacious avenue for his playing, with more of a jazz-centred approach than the grand-gesture, rock-inflected Metheny Group. This version of his trio consists of Metheny, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sánchez (who, as a member of the Metheny Group, has now played with the leader for many, many gigs). Their Symphony Center concert was deeply satisfying musically; it was also quintessentially Metheny in its crowd-pleasing blend of older favorites, fine new compositions, lots of guitar playing, and—despite the relative modesty of the trio format—a certain sprinkling of rock-concert Sturm und Drang.
Metheny started the performance solo on his acoustic Manzer baritone, playing a ruminative, dark-hued improvisation that slowly transformed itself into the more open-hearted, bucolic terrain of his classic "Last Train Home (the rapt Metheny fans cheering as they recognized the song). He followed up on the same instrument with a shimmering "One for the Boys, with its alternating hard-strummed chords and crisp arpeggios—the chordal progression somehow utterly Methenyesque in its impression of optimistic yearning. His final solo tune was an improvisation on his 42-string acoustic Pikasso, notable for its probing bass line that sighed under the harp-like higher-register glissandos. Parts of this piece seemed to touch upon some of the melodic territory of Metheny's 1981 suite with Lyle Mays, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls—sort of a miniature Wichita.

McBride and Sánchez then took the stage, Metheny donned his trademark Ibanez PM-100 electric, and the group took off with a supple, Sánchez-propelled "So May It Secretly Begin. Sánchez and Metheny have played together now for years, and they have a remarkablly honed, empathetic rapport. The drummer's got a flawless, crisp technique, and seated as I was above the stage, I could appreciate just how deft that technique is as his hands sailed around his kit, his gaze seldom straying from Metheny. It's remarkable to watch Metheny as he stands grimacing ecstatically, bobbing his head as he rips out endlessly engaging, imaginative lines—with his curly mop of hair, trademark striped pullover, faded jeans and sneakers, he hasn't changed his look one iota in twenty-five years. And if he's a visual anachronism, he couldn't care less; he's one of the most popular, employed musicians on earth, and the pleasure he takes in playing is utterly palpable.

Good though "So It May Secretly Begin was, Ornette Coleman's "Police People, one of the "new songs from the near-perfect rerelease of 1985's Metheny/Coleman collaboration Song X, was even better. Metheny played its Ornette-composed theme with snapping, carnivorous vigor, and its Metheny-composed, more traditional changes were tailor-made for Sánchez's skittering, nervous drumming and McBride's rock-solid bass—and, of course, for Metheny himself, whose scorching, rapid-fire runs and emotion-charged stringbends were equalled only by his remarkable guitar comping over Sánchez's drum break.

Metheny plays so much guitar that, coupled with Sánchez's occasional excesses in taste (some of his playing, especially his solo work, resembled the kind of look-what-I-can-do bombast one sees in instructional videos), could have pushed the band into empty grandiosity. But McBride always saved the day; despite his daunting technique, he's really a songs-oriented bassist. On a sweet new ballad known as yet only as "No. 72, McBride was willing mostly to play simple roots of the chords—he always seems to play what a piece needs. Yet on the same tune, he delivered an arco solo that seemed to draw out every melodic possibility latent in the song, and his bass solo over minimal Sánchez cymbal/snare support on the equally new, up-tempo, provisionally-titled "No. 13 was technically frightening—yet again characteristically melodic and singing. This solo turned into a thrilling, gleefully racing duet with Metheny that was alone worth the ticket price.


More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "ECM Showcase at NYC Winter Jazzfest 2017" Live Reviews ECM Showcase at NYC Winter Jazzfest 2017
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Sari Kessler: Live At The Kitano" Live Reviews Sari Kessler: Live At The Kitano
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 10, 2016
Read "Brilliant Corners 2016" Live Reviews Brilliant Corners 2016
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 19, 2016
Read "Gregory Porter At The Ulster Hall, Belfast" Live Reviews Gregory Porter At The Ulster Hall, Belfast
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 6, 2016
Read "Sarajevo Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Sarajevo Jazz Festival 2016
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: November 18, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!