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Issue: April 2008

Back in Fine Form

Day Trip (Nonesuch Records)
Pat Metheny Trio
Quartet (Nonesuch Records)
Secret Story (Nonesuch Records)
Pat Metheny

Day Trip, the new recording by guitarist Pat Metheny, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, will almost certainly make the "Best of 2008" lists. Although Day Trip is the first official recording by this lineup, these master musicians have toured together for several years and their unity of vision is well documented here.

Louisville jazz lovers were fortunate enough to get a preview of several of the songs on this CD when the trio played the Brown Theatre this past November (reviewed in the December 2007 edition of Louisville Music News).

The album opens with the fast-paced "Son of Thirteen," followed by "At Last You're Here," which begins as a ballad with delicate brushwork before moving to a midtempo section which offers McBride a chance to shine.

"Let's Move" lives up to its title and is followed by a Latin-flavored ballad, "Snova." "Calvin's Keys" is a more straight-ahead, bop oriented number. "Is This America?(Katrina 2005)" is an acoustic piece, almost like some distantly remembered folk song, with a feel somewhat akin to "Shenandoah." McBride makes his bass sing gently in his bowed solo. "When We Were Free" was one of the songs played last November; on the CD, McBride's riff sets up the song like a slow-burn John Coltrane piece and Metheny's guitar synth solo shows how technology can be harnessed to express human emotion.

"Dreaming Trees" is a subtle, understated beauty, again featuring Metheny's acoustic playing. Metheny originally recorded "The Red One" on the masterful CD I Can See Your House from Here with fellow guitarist John Scofield. On Day Trip, he reinterprets it with stylistic nods to both reggae and rock music. The album closes with the title track, another of the songs played here last fall. It comes closest to the feel of classic Pat Metheny Group songs and ends the recording on a high note. Ever since his first record as a leader in 1975, Bright Size Life, Metheny has had a penchant for the trio format. Day Trip is the latest in a series of brilliant offerings and makes one hope that this particular lineup will continue to record and tour together.

Over the past several years, Metheny has been reissuing some of his earlier recordings. Two of the recent re-releases are Quartet and Secret Story. Each represents a "side trip" from the Pat Metheny Group (PMG) albums and each in a different way. Secret Story was recorded in 1991-92 and is one of Metheny's most ambitious works. It featured PMG members Lyle Mays (piano and keyboards), Steve Rodby (bass) and Paul Wertico (drums), augmented by members of the London Orchestra, horn sections and guests such as Charlie Haden and Toots Thielemans. Metheny's gift for melodic composing and playing, which could have been overwhelmed by such large ensembles, is actually enhanced. This release also features a bonus disc of five previously unreleased songs from these sessions.

Quartet offered Metheny the opportunity to take the core of the 1996 PMG, still Mays, Rodby and Wertico, into the studio for an album of pared down compositions. Many were sketches rather than detailed works and this CD offers a chance to hear these great musicians in a less produced setting, emphasizing the jazz rather than pop and Brazilian influences of the era. While there are no bonus cuts, this is a well-produced album which offers the listener additional proof of Metheny's deep jazz roots and his flair for experimentation.

Find out more at www.patmetheny.com.

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