Pat Metheny Returns with Two New Projects

by Rick Moore

Metheny unity cover artIf there’s one thing that jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny can always be expected to do, it’s the unexpected. On two new excellent (as always) releases, Metheny continues to never be satisfied with what he did last year or the year before, always stretching the boundaries of recorded art in general and jazz in particular.

On The Unity Sessions, Metheny and his Unity Band play laid-back, melodic, introspective tunes, but also tear into it like there’s no tomorrow, with saxman Chris Potter trying to reach Coltrane territory. Metheny himself is always captivating, whether playing it straight with his legendary tone, using a synthesized instrument, playing his 42-string guitar, or doing things that only he can explain in either technical or layman’s terms.

This two-disc release is going to be, in a word, indispensable for any fan of Metheny, jazz, and the guitar, in that order. A lot of guitar players are going to accuse this band of just making noise, and jazz purists may skip certain cuts. But Metheny followers who have appreciated his journey, from his straight-ahead jazz homages to his forays with the Synclavier, to his inspired acoustic playing and his Ornette Coleman-influenced work, will wear this album out. There will never be another player, or composer, like this guy.

Metheny Cuong Vu cover artIn addition, Metheny appears on the new Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny, which finds Metheny collaborating with (relatively) young Seattle-based trumpeter/composer Cuong Vu on seven tracks that range from beautiful syncopated pieces to almost difficult listening. The rhythm section is smokin’ and understands perfectly how to back the soloists when they step outside, and Vu himself recalls the greats from Miles to Wynton to Chet Baker, only edgier. It’s sometimes obvious that Metheny himself influenced Vu, who was in kindergarten when Metheny started making a name for himself. Metheny was influenced by horn players in the first place, and it really shows in his playing here as well.

You can stream either of these records on Spotify etc., but real fans of Metheny and modern jazz will want to add The Unity Sessions and Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny to their collections.

For more, visit www.patmetheny.com

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