Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

274

Pat Metheny Group: The Way Up

Mark Sabbatini By

Sign in to view read count
Pat Metheny hasn't exactly been on a roll lately. The guitarist typically alternates safe and daring work, satisfying mainstream hordes while reassuring purists he's still among the modern masters. But lately it's been more mellow and less leaving the nest, and some of it sounds long in the tooth.



So it's refreshing that, even though The Way Up is another album by the mainstream- oriented Pat Metheny Group, it contains just four tracks, three of which are between 16 and 27 minutes long. Furthermore, the five-minute "Opening" shifts through a collage of snippets resembling previous releases with the speed and abruptness of an MTV video.



Maybe there's something to this album's title.



It's not that there's anything terribly new. In fact, for Metheny fans it may provoke something of a Rorschach response, with everyone hearing snippets from previous albums that they want to hear. It might be the long-form structure of As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (ECM, 1980), the eclectic instrumental collaborations of Quartet (Geffen, 1996), or the overall soothing pace of Speaking Of Now (Warner, 2002). Many more comparisons are possible.



But The Way Up is one of the freshest and most accomplished albums by Metheny in recent years and fairly bold for a Group outing. Regular Group fans may be a bit disappointed, in fact, as the lengthy and complex compositional outing requires more attention to appreciate than the typical crowd pleasers.



That structure may also disappoint Metheny's more straight-ahead jazz fans, as the soloing lacks the depth and intensity of his best work. He's fine on both rapid-fire jazz riffs and rock-laced guitar synth passages, but it's the same form he's occupied for a number of albums and there's a strong desire to hear him construct something approaching the likes of "Are You Going with Me?" or "Half Life Of Absolution."



Longtime pianist Lyle Mays makes the expected return, contributing more textures than inspiring passages. Cuong Vu continues the solid trumpet and vocals—although the latter is minimal—from his Group debut on Speaking Of Now. Drummer Antonio Sanchez lays out an exceptionally scenic path for the Group to follow, but it's up them to supply the actual scenery.



The album is both one composition and many—all part of a whole, but jumping and shifting frequently in short bursts everywhere. There are a number of unexpected moments and the complexity generally increases throughout, culminating in a very pleasing surprise ending. Ultimately, it's an album that takes a while to grow on you—but grow it will.



One of the problems with Metheny is that he's critic-immune, even to critics. He can release tepid film scores or thrash-noise hoaxes like Zero Tolerance For Silence (Geffen, 1992) and get raves praising them as high art. The accolades are already stacking up for the new album, but it needs to be kept in context. Metheny is still a ways from topping 2000's Trio Live, but The Way Up is the first album since then that's likely to outlast a "flavor of the week" playlist.


Track Listing: Opening, Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Personnel: Pat Metheny: (acoustic, electric, synth and slide guitars), Lyle Mays: (acoustic piano, keyboards), Steve Rodby: (acoustic and electric bass, cello), Cuong Vu: (trumpet, voice), Gregoire Maret: (harmonica), Antonio Sanchez: (drums)
with Richard Bona: (percussion, voice), David Samuels: (percussion)

Title: The Way Up | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Shades Of Life" CD/LP/Track Review Shades Of Life
by James Nadal
Published: July 18, 2017
Read "Train Of Thought" CD/LP/Track Review Train Of Thought
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Hudson" CD/LP/Track Review Hudson
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 18, 2017
Read "Runnin' for the Ghost" CD/LP/Track Review Runnin' for the Ghost
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 1, 2017
Read "Oaktree" CD/LP/Track Review Oaktree
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Live At Jazzhus Montmartre" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Jazzhus Montmartre
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 31, 2017