ECM's Rarum series, where artists choose their own peak recordings, has resulted in an occasionally refreshing departure from a conventional "Greatest Hits" package. Yet this Metheny retrospective seems only minutely different from a "hits" package, though it is a vast improvement over Works, the label's previous anthology of popular Metheny.
Here is a 70 minute slice of Metheny primarily as jazz/pop synthesizer, with lots of pretty synth washes and power chords, with even a soupçon of crowd cheers at the start of a live version of "Are You Going With Me?" Who identifies an ECM live recording with the hoots and screams associated with stadium rock? But Metheny has a crossover audience, and he is certainly a master at appropriating ideas from other genres tastefully, stealing a classic county boogie lick to showcase in "New Chautauqua," while sampling Brazilian rhythms as tastefully as Getz on several numbers.
Two selections resist the formulaic and particularly shine. "Everyday (I Thank You)" is the most deliciously soaring tune Metheny ever wrote, pure heartland hymn, and offers a showcase for saxophonist Mike Brecker to perform the solo of his career. Metheny's cover of Horace Silver's ballad "Lonely Woman" spotlights a delicate interplay of the guitarist with the elegant rhythm section of bassist Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins. These are about as far from the commercially engaging jazz/pop as Metheny would tuck away on ECM, the more radical Metheny ending up, ironically, on the more low-brow Geffen label.
Formulaic as Metheny has been, he has successfully mined progressive rock and brought the best of that often pretentious style into mainstream jazz guitar. Revolutionary guitar this isn't, but always intelligently arranged and performed, always a palpable pleasure to hear. And the remastered sound serves Metheny well.
Track Listing: 1. Bright Size Life 2, Phase Dance, 3. New Chatauqua, 4. Airstream, 5. Every Day (I Thank You), 6. Are You Going With Me? 7. The First Circle, 8. Lonely Woman
Personnel: Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Bob Moses, Lyle Mays, Mark Egan, Dan Gottlieb, Mike Brecker, Charlie Haden, Jack deJohnette, Nano Vasconcelos, Steve Rodby, Pedro Aznar, Paul Wertico, Billy Higgins.