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Pat Metheny Trio The Capitol Theatre Columbus, OH April 2000
Much like a modern-day Ellington, guitarist and composer Pat Metheny has kept his working group together for many decades now and utilizes it as a workshop for developing his compositions, always tailoring his work, like the maestro, for the persons involved. Pushing the comparison further, Metheny also thrives on the many and various "sidebars" that he dabbles in from time to time. His latest trio project finds him working with two gentleman that are from the present generation of trend-setters, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart. These three got hooked on the simpatico developed over several European gigs last summer and subsequently hit the studio in the fall to record the recently-issued Trio 99-00.
One of only 25 Stateside performances taking place over the next few months to support the new album, it was strictly a V.S.O.P. type of gig that managed to come to Columbus Ohio's Capitol Theatre on March 21st. In typical Metheny style, the show lasted just a bit shy of two hours and the packed SRO crowd was taken on a musical junket that seemed, as the old maxim goes, to leave the blues behind and wash off the dust of your everyday routine.
Things got underway with coincidentally the two opening gambits from the disc, "Go Get It" and a substantial re-working of "Giant Steps." The dynamism and forward momentum that drummer Bill Stewart creates was immediately sensed; he can swing, funk it up, and solo with equal poise. His sound is marked by a ringing and open bass drum (not the thud so common to rock drummers) and intelligent use of the many textures offered by the cymbals. Grenadier was rock solid in his support, yet a surprisingly melodic soloist in his own spots.
Just a few numbers into the set, Metheny commented on his current unearthing of older compositions which he was incorporating into the show and doing so with much gratification (although he very amusingly put down one of his early tunes after a brief acoustic guitar performance by commenting that, "I know now what's wrong with that tune, it doesn't have a bridge. I'll have to work on that"). Both "James" and "So May It Secretly Begin" are part of the "group" repertoire but sounded undeniably powerful in this new trio context.
The show proved to be like the disc in the sense that there were several pieces which found Metheny on acoustic, but unlike the disc, he also opted for one virtuosic spot on the 42-stringed Picasso guitar and several on guitar synth. "Question and Answer" took advantage of the latter, as Metheny and Stewart duked it out with some uproarious banter over the closing vamp. There was even a spontaneous and free jam which had Metheny coaxing from the guitar synth all sorts of esoteric sounds.
After the propulsive swing of "Lone Jack" the crowd rose to their feet and the whistles and applause swelled before Metheny and Grenadier took the stage for an encore. If the crowd had had their way, there would have been second and third encores, but playing music on this high of a level clearly can take a lot of energy and in the end Metheny and the guys were more than generous with their musical offerings. Plus, somehow you went away pondering the notion that these three might never again have the collective meeting of the minds as just experienced, making the evening seem even more special.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.