Question and Answer
is the second in a glittering, altogether too infrequent series of albums guitarist Pat Metheny has recorded in acoustic trio settings, usually on the hoof and with little post-production, which act as a counterweight to his more elaborate work with larger line-ups. Recorded in 1989 and originally released on Geffen, it's been immaculately remastered for this Nonesuch reissue.
The first of Metheny's trio albums was Rejoicing (ECM, 1983), with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins. The third and fourth were Trio 99-00 (Warner Bros, 1999), with bassist FLY and drummer Bill Stewart, and Day Trip (Nonesuch, 2008), with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez.
If the established frequency is maintained, we can expect Metheny's fifth trio release round about 2017. Most jazz guitar fans would agree such a timeline amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. But Metheny presumably believes that his variegated discographyfor something at the other end of the spectrum check out Upojenie (Nonesuch, 2008), a collaboration with the Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek, which has been reissued simultaneously with Question and Answerpermits no greater frequency.
Attempting to rate one of the trio albums as "the best" would be a meaningless exercise; such is the uniformly incandescent quality of the music involved. But anyone nominating Question and Answer would likely have in mind the contribution of drummer Roy Haynes, which is supremely powerful magicsensitive, sophisticated and responsive but also fat, mighty and propulsive. The sound of Haynes' kit is burnished to perfection on the remaster, and his performance fully justifies its inclusion alongside Metheny's at the front of the mix. Whether driving the band, counterpointing Metheny's solos or swopping quicksilver, viscerally thrilling choruses with him, Haynes is just heavenly.
A close to venerable 64 when the album was recorded, and still kicking 19 years later, Haynes' career is summarized on the 3-CD retrospective A Life In Time (Dreyfus, 2008).
Add bassist Dave Holland, not as prominent as either Metheny or Haynes in the mix, but shining alongside them as soloist, and you have another magnificent Metheny trio line-up.
Recorded over a single day in December, 1989, the only track which deviates from the trio series' what-you-hear-is-what-you-get aesthetic is the closing "Three Flights Up," on which Metheny overdubbed Synclavier for a more layered sound. The pace is brisk going on jet-speed, with the exception of Metheny's "Never Too Far Away" and "Change Of Heart" (which won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition), both of which take a slower, more reflective route. There are five Metheny originals altogether, plus Miles Davis' "Solar" and Ornette Coleman's "Law Years," and two standards (Hill and Robinson's "Old Folks," taken at a sprightly step, and Kern and Hammerstein's "All The Things You Are," an elegant gallop).
A whirlwind of an affair, invigorating and exquisite; a masterpiece of the first order.