Pat Metheny Unity Group – Kin ()
(Nonesuch 7558-79581. CD Review by Rob Mallows)
This album marks guitarist Pat Metheny’s next development of his Unity Band, with which for the first time in decades he has built around the tenor sound of saxophonist Chris Potter, drummer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Ben Williams, and multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi . The album won a Grammy and London fans will be able to catch much of it in June (*)
In adding a fifth member to the band, Metheny talks of creating a more lush and orchestrated sound. In his words: “If the first Unity Band record was a thoughtful, black and white documentary of four musicians in a recording studio playing, this record is more like the Technicolor, IMAX version of what a band like this could be!”. It’s a mix of the familiar and the slightly surprising, evidence that Metheny has found in this group a context in which he can fully stretch his musical muscles, and keep things fresh.
The album gives the listener a full understanding of what Metheny, now nearly sixty, is all about and where he feels comfortable in his role as grand master of contemporary jazz. The opening track, On Day One, dawdles along, eventually introducing a simple but infectious groove from William’s bass and a sweet melody from Potter’s sax. On this track and others, Metheny eschews the opportunity to let his guitar playing hog the limelight in the mix. Rise Up‘s stirring acoustic guitar opens up into a jaunty theme by Potter which builds in volume and complexity, whilst Adagio stops the album in its tracks: Metheny brings the pace right down and plays a charming melody with minimal accompaniment from Potter. He also calms things down on the ballad Born. You get a feel as you listen of the great interplay which Metheny has discovered with these particular musicians, the joy of the ‘group’ which seems to have enthused and energised him.
There are some less convincing moments: I found that Sign of the Season and We Go On, sounded confused because of the excessive range of influences zipping past. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, it’s a solid album with plenty to grab the attention both of die-hard Metheny fan and of newer listeners.
(*) Eventim Apollo Hammersmith on 11 June 2014 (tickets are already selling out).