Friday, August 22, 2008

Imaginary Column-Earth-Satellite Dish Live

Imaginary Day Live
By the Pat Metheny Group
Eagle Eye Media

Pat Metheny is unusual among jazz artists in that when he tours, he brings serious gear and can afford guys to carry it all. You can see them setting up for a series of concerts at the Mountain Winery on Imaginary Day Live, the latest live DVD release from the Pat Metheny Group, of course featuring Lyle Mays on piano and keyboards.

Day was part of a concert tour to support the CD of the same title, with the seven of the ten tracks on the DVD drawn from the record’s nine tunes. The original CD cover art was notable for the picto-cryptograms used for the titles, which has been expanded for the DVD, with “Live” becoming egg-pocket watch-Empire State Building-elephant. Day was also notable as Metheny’s most fully realized immersion into jazz-rock territory at the time, which is reflected in the live concert performance.

Metheny seems to prefer starting concerts with a solo performance, which “Into the Dream” essentially is, concluding with some percussive accompaniment. The full band then launches into “Follow Me,” which is vintage Metheny—highly melodic with a medium tempo groove and some nicely harmonized background vocalizing. Probably the best straight-ahead jazz solos come in the following “A Story Within the Story” from Metheny as well as from trumpeter Mark Ledford. The interludes featuring his muted horn and Philip Hamilton’s melodica add a nice flavor to the tune.

Easily the most full-throated jazz-rock excursions are heard on “Imaginary Day” and “The Roots of Coincidence.” The synths on the latter can be a bit overbearing, approaching Floyd levels, but it is a high octane performance (with Mays playing second guitar).

Considering Day represents Metheny’s jazz-rock period, there are a surprising number of moody, introspective tunes, like “Across the Sky,” “Message to a Friend,” and “September Fifteenth.” As heartfelt as Metheny’s performances are, they lose some of their immediacy on video. More successful are the Latinesque “Heat of the Day,” which recalls some of Chick Corea’s Spanish-inspired compositions and features a dramatic solo from Mays, and the up-tempo set-closer “Minuano (Six Eight).”

Day is a very good set that is sure to please his fans, but if you are looking to start your Metheny DVD collection, I would recommend beginning with The Way Up Live, also from Eagle Rock. Not to disrespect Day, but where it is solid, Way Up is outstanding and remains Metheny’s best work to date.