Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day Trip

Day Trip
Pat Metheny
Nonesuch Records

Pat Metheny has the most recognizable hair in jazz and a remarkable flexibility to excel within various styles and formats. With his latest release, Day Trip, he strips things down to a simple, straight-forward trio, for a relaxed, enjoyable set of Metheny originals.

Metheny’s newly reconstituted trio consists of the leader’s guitar, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Christian McBride on bass, who play cohesively together throughout. McBride is proving to be the go-to bassist for powerhouse trios over the last year, performing with Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes at Carnegie Hall and recording with Bruce Hornsby and Jack DeJohnette on the rock star’s jazz debut. Here, he meshes perfectly with Metheny and Sanchez.

Things lead off with the mid-tempo “Son of Thirteen,” enriched by Sanchez’s rhythms. It is followed by the contemplative “At Last You’re Here,” featuring some of session’s the strongest solo statements from the leader and McBride.

Indeed, it is the peaceful, introspective tunes like “At Last” that are the highlights of Day Trip. In fact, the session’s emotional climax comes with “Is This America (Katrina 2005),” a haunting elegy obviously inspired by current events, but sounding like a delicate, deeply personal statement, rather than a political broadside. (Yes, it can be done.) Metheny’s playing sounds truly inspired and McBride’s arco solo is perfectly fitting.

Day Trip is at its bluesiest with the strutting “Calvin’s Keys,” evidently a tribute to the under-recorded guitarist, Calvin Keys, a veteran of the Jimmy Smith trio. Metheny also changes things up a little by breaking out the guitar synth for a jazz-rock excursion on “The Red One."

Metheny is jazz’s current guitar hero and his return to the trio format is certainly well worth hearing. This Metheny Trio plays at a consistently high level throughout Day Trip, but the CD may actually suffer from high expectations set by the guitarist’s last several recordings, including collaborations with Brad Mehldau and the extended suite The Way Up. Metheny will probably be playing the instant classic “Is This America” for years to come, but his other originals here are not quite as distinct and compelling. Still, Day Trip rewards repeated listening with many moments of dynamic group interplay.