Sunday, October 15, 2006

Speaking of Metheny Live

Speaking of Now Live
Pat Metheny Group
Eagle Eye Media

The Metheny Group knows how to put on a live show. After reviewing his latest DVD The Way Up, I’ve been watching his preceding DVD Speaking of Now Live, and it is another really well put together show.

Instead of opening with an up-tempo flag-waver, Metheny starts the show (or at least the DVD sequencing) with a sensitive solo performance of “Last Train Home.” He follows that by ripping through the bop based burner “Go Get It” with drummer Antonio Sanchez. As an opening it lays down the gauntlet to anyone skeptical of musicians associated with fusion, basically saying “deal with that.”

Throughout the concert, the Metheny Group explores challenging arrangements, and exciting group interplay. “Gathering Sky” starts with Metheny’s infectious vamp, echoed by Lyle Mays on piano. However, the group is not afraid to change up the mood from a fleet solo by Metheny to an extended feature for drummer Sanchez.

“On Her Way” is another highlight, generously spotlighting Richard Bona’s thumb piano and vocalizing during a long introduction, somewhat reminiscent of his work with the Zawinul Syndicate. Metheny’s briskly attacks his solo, and the voices of Bona and trumpeter Cuong Vu effectively blend together. It is a performance that really demonstrates the group’s ability to layer harmonies for a wonderful sound.

The Metheny Group brings it down effectively too, as on “A Map of the World & In Her Family,” which opens as a solo statement from Metheny. Mays takes over on piano, starting delicately, than becoming rhapsodic, until Metheny comes back in for a closing seamless duet.

The Pat Metheny Group has produced one strong album after another, so it is nice to see them also documented in live performance. Technically the set-list here does not match the CD track list exactly, but it is close enough for jazz. One can argue if the Metheny group had recorded the album on this particular night, they would have recorded the tunes they chose for this concert. Jazz artists like the Pat Metheny Group certainly prove that the album is still a viable concept and not just a padded vehicle for a couple of singles. Their performance in Speaking of Now Live proves the merit of each tune in over two hours of exciting music.