||PAT METHENY TRIO -> LIVE
Over the course of more than 20 years as a recording artist, Pat Metheny has released album after album, each one brilliantly documenting another aspect of his unique and nearly uncategorizable musical journey. Exhibiting an insatiable creative energy, Metheny has participated in just about every avenue of modern music-making possible. Seemingly bent on blurring and obliterating stylistic boundaries at every opportunity, he has created Grammy-winning albums with his regular Pat Metheny Group, soundtracks for major motion pictures, solo albums, duets with major artists such as Charlie Haden and Jim Hall, and collaborations with other significant major figures such as Ornette Coleman, Steve Reich and many others.
But for a certain group of his followers, there is no setting that defines Metheny the musician as clearly as his trio records. Scattered among the chronology of his vast recorded output are three of the most revered, studied and influential guitar trio albums of our time: Bright Size Life, recorded in 1975 with Metheny's first working band, featuring bassist Jaco Pastorius and drummer Bob Mosesa record that literally had the effect of changing the entire language of jazz guitar practically overnight and reclaiming it for a new generation of players; Rejoicing, recorded in 1984 with Metheny's working trio of the mid-'80s, featuring bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins; and Question And Answer, an incendiary meeting of three of the most quick-thinking improvisers of this eraMetheny meets his "main hero" Roy Haynes on drums with the incomparable Dave Holland joining in on bass.
In the spring of the year 2000 with the release of his most recent explorations in the trio configuration, TRIO 99>00, Metheny matched the heights of those previous trio releases and then some. That superlative recording, recorded in two days at the end of a two-month summer tour in 1999 with his most current trio of bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart, delivered some of the most impressive modern jazz improvising ever laid down on that sometimes unwieldy-for-the-task six-string monster. Metheny had never seemed more at home with his over and under the bar line phrasing and apparently endless flow of melody. There were also in evidence some startling new developments in the areas of octave displacement and a general intervallic command that sounded essentially new for his instrumenta harmonic fluency that would be rare for the best improvising saxophonists, and practically unheard of in a guitarist. Mixed in with the already highly-refined sense of melodic development that Metheny shares with just a handful of modern improvisers was a fearless and exuberant sense of rhythmic purpose and direction that allowed him to play chorus after chorus of ideas that sounded as fresh as they were swinging. TRIO 99>00 delivered some of the most satisfying Metheny ever committed to tape, which at the time of its release was really saying something.
About the only thing left for a fan to hope for would be the one piece of the puzzle that has been notably missing from Metheny's discography to date: a Metheny-produced and sanctioned live recording of his playing in a trio setting. For as much as Metheny's studio recordings have been signposts of his brilliant leaps as an improviser and continued growth as a musician, just about everyone who has ever seen him play in any context live knows that the recordings are just the tip of the iceberg. Metheny, whether with his regular Group, as a sideman with other musicians, or in the hundreds of trio concerts that this particular band has performed all over the world in the past two years, is one of the most exciting live performers in jazz.
So, as the rumors of an official live trio release from the TRIO 99>00 lineup began to fan out around music circles worldwide, the anticipation has grown to a fervor.
PAT METHENY TRIO > LIVE
Warner Bros. Records in association with Metheny Group Productions brings you PAT METHENY TRIO > LIVE, a double CD set that includes performances from the trio's Japanese, European and American tours from 1999 and 2000.
Included in these two CDs are new versions of such previous Metheny classics as "Bright Size Life" and "The Bat"; Metheny's unique trio interpretations of some of his most popular "Group" songs such as "So May It Secretly Begin" and "James"; a standard, "All The Things You Are"; and a nearly 20-minute version of the classic Metheny piece "Question and Answer" that must be heard to be believed.
There are also three brand new Metheny compositions; "Night Turns Into Day", "Counting Texas" and "Faith Healer", the one that displays a side of Metheny's expansive musical world that has never been documented in any context before. They also show an overall growth of this particular trio as a musical unit that is practically overwhelming in its collective range and impact over the course of the two CDs.
About this recording Metheny says, "It is kind of hard for me to believe that it has taken this long to get around to releasing some music in this particular instrumentation in a live context. There is no particular reason for it. It just seems that I have always moved quickly onto the next zone or project after each previous trio tour and have never takenor hadthe time to go through the available recorded material that could conceivably be released as a CD before. The evolution and development of this particular trio with Larry and Bill was so dramaticit started out really good and just continued to grow and growthat I just couldn't resist the opportunity to review it and document it in this form."
"However," Metheny continues, "I have to admit that I wasn't that interested in doing this if the idea was to just recreate what we did on the studio recordI really felt it had to have a message of its own - a reason for being that was particular." He need not have worried. What we have herepossibly inadvertently on his part but here neverthelessis a fascinating retrospective of Metheny's entire life as a musician. From the opening eight-note melody of the first track, the title tune from Metheny's debut album "Bright Size Life," we are transported to the earliest moments of Metheny's nascent career, kicked off with those same eight notes 25 years ago.
The differences between then and now are immediately striking over the course of the piece and the CD as a wholethe level of control that Metheny has over the instrument has evolved both technically and emotionally and his general maturity as a player and improviser is evident instantly. But what is more interesting is how the essence of his musical message has widened and deepened but still somehow embodies the same kind of fresh bebop-cliche-free exuberance that it did when he quietly revolutionized the jazz guitar tradition with that inimitable sound of optimism and deceptive lyricism some quarter century ago.
Over the course of this two hours of music, the listener is taken on a musical tour of an artist who seems to revel in the challenges of what trio playingand this trio in particularcan offer him. The range of expression included in TRIO > LIVE is stunning in its achievement; this band is literally capable of going from the softest, most tender ballad playing imaginable to moments of ferocious aural energy that would make most of the world's heavy metal bands sound tame by comparison. And no matter which direction of playing is being investigated at the time, it always sounds like the most natural thing in the world for them to be doing.
In fact, for those who have listened to the studio record that this band released earlier this year, or Metheny's other trio records for that matter, there are things on this record that some listeners may be quite unprepared for. It is rare to have such a clear documentation of how three players' collective growth as an ensemble can expand so enormously in such a short time through the close proximity of their recorded efforts. With TRIO 99>00 we saw the incredible harmonic openness of the Metheny/Grenadier juxtaposition and the fertile, at times, uncanny, rhythmic connection that permeated every exchange between Metheny and Bill Stewart.
TRIO > LIVE embodies and continues those aspects of the trio's chemistry; but there is a raw visceral power and impact on these live recordings that was only hinted at on the studio record.
After starting the set with a rousing version of the embryonic Metheny classic "Bright Size Life," the trio jumps ahead to yet another title tune from another of the earlier trio records, "Question and Answer." After impressive individual solos from all three musicians, they launch into a collective coda that for almost ten minutes thunders into territory that has only previously been hinted at in Metheny's recorded work.
The intensity of the ending on this piece summons up the "energy" recording of the mid-'60s of Albert Ayler or the best of late-period John Coltrane. Wave after wave of sound coaxes the listener into a kind of trance as the trio's relentless pursuit of ecstatic music-making reaches for and touches the sky. The fact that Metheny himself is using a guitar synth seems incidentalwhich is, of course, an accomplishment in itself. Metheny remains one of just a handful of musicians who have reconciled modern technology with the fundamental spirit of what jazz can be. And this track may wind up being his manifesto on the subjectand one of the great live "jams" ever documented on CD.
Having summoned up the spirit of John Coltrane, what else could the trio do but honor him by offering an encore of their much lauded version of the master's "Giant Steps"done once again with Metheny's unique arrangement and rhythmic treatment that was featured on last year's studio recording. Again Metheny shows that it is possible to play through the most complex of chord changes with a direct melodicism that creates memorable lines without relying on the usual pre-scripted bop cadences. Melody after melody flow uninhibited through the matrix-like Trane changes.
A mainstay of recent Metheny performances since 1997, the 42-string guitar is one of Metheny's own personal innovations. After commissioning luthier Linda Manzer to create this unique instrument to his specifications in 1985 (it first appeared on Metheny's stellar collaborative effort with Ornette Coleman, Song X), it did not appear again in a highly featured context until 1997's Metheny Group recording, Imaginary Day. Jokes Metheny, "It took me that long to figure out the right tuning for it!"
On Imaginary Day, and a year later on the already-classic duet recording with fellow master guitarist Jim Hall, Metheny introduced his new composition, "Into the Dream," which is designed to showcase the unique character of the 42-string instrument.
Here, on this recording, we have the latest stage in the evolution of Metheny's exploration of the potential of this new instrument. The fact that this version of "Into the Dream" is a solo performance is almost impossible to believeit sounds like at least three guitarists and a bassist playing simultaneously. Says Metheny, "The beauty and the challenge of playing that axe is that I literally can approach it like I am playing the pianothe range of the instrument is just a few octaves short of the full range of the keyboard. In order to take full advantage of the contrapuntal potential of what the instrument offers, I had to develop a special technique to play it where I kind of hammer-on the bass notes on one neck while plucking and strumming the other strings in the other registers of the instrument at the same time. Actually, even for me, when I hear it back on tape, I am not totally sure where all the sound is coming fromthere is a kind of cumulative harmonic force that builds up as I get going that almost allows the instrument to double up on itself. Over the past few years, I have played a fairly long solo piece built around this tune pretty much every night and have learned so much about what is possible with it. The night that is represented on this live recording was one of the better times I played it, so I am excited to have it captured for release on this CD."
"Into the Dream" segues effortlessly into the unmistakable bass ostinato of another Metheny classic, "So May It Secretly Begin," from the record Still Life (Talking). One has to wonder at first, how will it be possible for this trio to conjure up the sheer amount of sound that this tune in its original incarnation by the much larger Pat Metheny Group supported' Again, the trio surprises by fulfilling all of the musical requirements, both harmonic and rhythmic, in a sort of stripped-down and essential way, while at the same time illuminating the open spaces that the spare melody of the tune had heretofore hidden in the denser orchestration of its original version. And in a testament to their versatility, both Grenadier and Stewart show an understanding of Metheny's larger group's vision of sound and groove that shows respect and insight while maintaining their own very individualistic way of playingnot an easy feat. "So May It Secretly Begin" also features one of Metheny's own best solos on this date, a bluesy and harmonically fulfilling gem of an example of how to outline the harmonic details of a piece while being totally free within the form of it.
The trio slows things down with a lovely version of Metheny's ballad "The Bat," originally written for the album 80/81 and played beautifully on that date by the great saxophonist Dewey Redman. For all of the "density" that Metheny involves in his recent playing, something he attributes to the more urban lifestyle he has lived in relation to his early years, he is still capable of leaving some of the most profound spaces in modern improvising. As on his classic recent recording with Charlie Haden, we find a Metheny here on "The Bat" who is simply one of the best ballad players of the era. Again, Grenadier and Stewart impress with their understated yet fully supportive and understanding accompaniment.
The first CD wraps up with a seriously up-tempo version of the song that seems to be every jazz musicians favorite to solo on, the Jerome Kern classic, "All The Things You Are." This is the third time Metheny has recorded this piece (on his own Question And Answer and again on the Jim Hall and Pat Metheny duet record). It is interesting to compare the three versionsto notice how Metheny seems to wield a literally unlimited supply of ways to circumnavigate the global view of these changes. And once again, as is so often the case with this trio, Stewart's own rhythmic vision of what to play in this setting is the ideal complement for Metheny, both in his backing patterns and in his soloing.
CD Two begins with a jaunty and explorative version of another much covered Metheny composition "James." The first incarnation of this piece (on the PMG record Offramp) was one of almost bossanova simplicity. By the time the trio gets done with it here, Metheny and company have sliced and diced the harmonic rhythm, obscured and reinvented the melody and basically deconstructed the tune into their spontaneous will of the momenta testament not only to their playing ability as a band, but to the durability of the tune at hand.
"Unity Village" is a piece that again harkens back to Metheny's first recording Bright Size Life. Says Metheny, "One of the things that coincided with the formation of this trio and our subsequent work together was the completion of a Songbook of basically all of my tunes that have ever been recordeda 13-year project for me. When I finally had all of the tunes in sort of generally readable form and all in one place like that, it was a blast to be able to play some of them that I hadn't really even thought about for many years with Larry and Bill. 'Lone Jack' on the studio record was one that came about getting on that record that way, I literally hadn't played it for 15 years or so until we recorded it. And 'Unity Village' was kind of the same. I dusted it off for the tour, and although we didn't play it often, when we did, it really took me back. "Unity Village" is about a place near the little town where I grew up in Missouri, a place that I spent almost every day of each summer when I was a little kid."
The trio continues with a reprise of Metheny's blues "Soul Cowboy," a piece he wrote specifically for Grenadier and Stewart for their studio record last year. "I think that every group of musicians has a few particular tempos that they really, really love to play together, and that source of agreement almost becomes like the musical rhythmic DNA of a particular band's sound. 'Soul Cowboy' came from the way that Bill and Larry can lock up on that kind of medium/slow groove that is just so uniquely theirs. I look forward to playing this one with them every night; we even would start sets with it sometimes. I could always count on it to feel good no matter what."
Among the highlights of this performance are the extended choruses that Metheny takes to develop single ideas to their fullesta Metheny trademark, and a rare quality among today's improvisers. Also striking in this version are the exchanges between Metheny and Stewart, particularly the final one where we hear Metheny playing in an abstract expressionist style that shows an entirely new direction of his playing being revealed for the first time.
The CD concludes with three brand new Metheny compositions. The first is a lovely new ballad, played here on acoustic guitar, entitled "Night Turns Into Day." Of this piece Metheny comments, "This one has actually been floating around for a few years now and I had yet to record it. Over the course of our tour, it became one of the favorite ballads of the set. It is a piece that has a long form that doesn't ever repeat exactly, making it a challenge to improvise on. Again, Larry and Bill show their sensitivity and versatility by playing something this soft and delicate so beautifully."
The penultimate track of this volume may go down as one of Metheny's most discussed and dissected recorded performances. "Faith Healer" is a nearly 20-minute long journey into a sonic universe that is just about unprecedented in any trio recording heretofore known to manMetheny's or otherwise. From the first moments of the Grenadier/Stewart launch through the initial statement of the melody, the listener knows that new ground is about to be broken.
The piece is organized in an almost suite-like system, with short, abrupt, and mind-numbingly accurate, ensemble passages followed by various sorts of expositions: solo guitar, guitar/bass duets, bass/drum duets and collective playing. The early Metheny solo section reveals a startling new vocabulary, although one may find oneself referring to a previous jolt in Metheny's discography, "Zero Tolerance for Silence," as a reference point. However, while that work was all about the use of the guitar as monochromatic paintbrush in dense sound, this one is an exercise in shades and color along with similarly dense outburstsbut rendered with a narrative logic that parallels his more conventional harmonic playing with eerie accuracy.
Says Metheny: "'Faith Healer' is a piece that developed dramatically over the course of the year of playing together. I think when I first brought it in, Larry and Bill were a little scared of it, or at least of the dynamic implications of what the axe I was playing on it could generate. As soft as some of the really soft acoustic things I wanted to play were, this one had moments that were really loud, certainly much louder than you would associate with your normal jazz guitar trio, and probably more intense at its peaks than either one of them had ever played before in a setting like this. But as time went on, they both really rose to the piece, taking it places that I wouldn't have imagined. And that dynamic thing, the thing of really using all of the potential dynamic range of a particular instrument or a particular instrumentation, has always been important to me. So much music, especially so much jazz music, kind of hovers around the same basic dynamic range that gets established in the first two or three tunes. I really wanted the full range of this trio, sonically and emotionally, to be represented in our live performances. And I also hoped to capture that on this live record as well."
"Faith Healer" will no doubt generate the same kind of controversy that Metheny must now be familiar with after such releases as "Song X," "Zero Tolerance for Silence" or "The Sign of Four" with Derek Bailey, but Metheny remains dedicated to his vision of an inclusive sense of what improvised music is all about: "The only way I can function is to play the music that I honestly love, that I feel close toand basically, that is all I have ever done. I rarely question the 'music fan' that lives inside of me. In a way, ultimately he is the one calling the shots. There are lots of different ways to play and hear music. If I love a certain sound or a certain way of thinking about playing, it has always been very natural for me to learn how to play something that feels that way to me, or at least how to understand why it is attracting me. From that point on, it is pretty much a given that with the right setting, that thing, whatever form it takes, will be able to come out."
"Faith Healer" is a tour de force of group improvisation, a track that goes a long way towards showing how it is possible to, as Metheny says, "reconcile the tradition with the future." The trio performance here by Messieurs. Metheny, Grenadier and Stewart does exactly that. If there is ever any question about whether there are musicians who are fluent in the traditional jazz vernacular who are also dead set "against the idea of jazz becoming simply an idiom of 20th century music," they need not look further than this track. This is a startling vision of an inclusive and personal jazz dialect in the making.
CD Two closes out with the third of Metheny's new compositions, "Counting Texas," its title reflecting its unique and improbable ZZ Top meets Ornette Coleman hybrid. This piece also marks the first recorded documentation of yet another Metheny innovation, the fretless 12-string guitar, once again commissioned by Metheny for construction by Toronto's busiest and best guitar maker, Linda Manzer.
"For the past few years", says Metheny, "since the record Imaginary Day, I had been working a lot of fretless guitar, an incredibly challenging instrument. But there has always been a quality that I really liked about North African ouds, which are something like the fretless guitar I was playinggut strings and allbut normally in an 11-string configuration, with five sets of double strings and a bass note. I asked Linda to make a 'guitar oud,' a 12-string fretless instrument with six sets of unison strings. This piece was written on it the first day I got it."
"Counting Texas," in addition to its phenomenal Metheny/Stewart duet, showcases Grenadier and Stewart in a "trading" section that reveals their empathy with one anotherand not without a small amount of humor. While the implied form is that of a 12-bar blues, all three musicians take liberties with the phrase lengths, often abandoning and returning to the form at will over the course of the piece.
TRIO>LIVE was recorded by Metheny's longtime sound engineer, David Oakes, over the course of the trio's three major tours together in Japan, the United States and Europe in 1999 and 2000. Says Metheny, "David brought recording equipment on tour with him and wherever it was practical, he would set it up. For the most part, and for better or worse, I was pretty much unaware of when he was taping and when he wasn't. Most of the music wound up coming from the gigs where we played for multiple nights, like the Knitting Factory in New York City or the Tokyo Blue Note. But occasionally we would find a version of a piece from some other place, like a small concert in Italy or France or something, that fit well within the program of this recording as it unfolded. I didn't really worry too much about where anything was from, when [fellow producer] Steve Rodby and I went through the available music, we just tried to pick versions that we felt we would like to hear again, ones that seemed like they would stand up to repeated listening."
A listener cannot help but notice the intense devotion and dedicated listening invoked by the public's reactions on these recordings. "One of the most asked questions when I do interviews is about the differences in audiences around the world. This recording is interesting in that we have several quite different cultures represented in the audiences that these shows are taken from, yet their reactions to and enthusiasm for the music are all actually amazingly quite similar. One of the real privileges of getting to tour a lot, for me, has always been the way that you as a performer are allowed to view a global audience in return through their reaction to the music. I have always felt that people everywhere are much more alike than they are different, and the reactions here prove that to be trueyou really can't tell where one audience begins and another ends."
In order to preserve the continuity and feeling of a continuous live show, producers Metheny and Rodby were faced with the dilemma that all live compilations must address: "Yeah, do you fade out each audience and start a new one from black for each track? That gets old real fast. So we followed the live record convention of just blending the tails of one crowd with the starts of the next piece and matching the length to go with the way that it went down live. Essentially we are morphing from Japan to America to Europe to Japan and back, using the audiences as transitional material. What is far out is that all those guys maintain just about the same level of intensity, which is funny considering that the Japanese are supposed to be so quiet and all compared to the Italians and a bunch of New Yorkers. Let me tell you, they weren't!"
After the choice of material was made, the record was digitally assembled and organized by Metheny's longtime and now essential partner in the studio, Steve Rodby. Metheny offers: "Steve Rodby is kind of the ultimate producer. He has a vast array of talents in the studio that seem to be expanding at the same rate as the studio technology that he is so adept at using. Not only is he one of the best bassists in the world, someone I am so proud to have shared the stage with for so many years, but his ability to help me on these kinds of projects on a production level would be hard for me to describeor to do without. He is a fantastic musical ally in every way." The record was mixed by Rob Eaton, who has been involved in the engineering and mixing of most of Metheny's recorded output for almost 20 years now, and mastered at Sterling Sound by legendary mastering engineer Ted Jensen.
The result, like its studio predecessor, is a worthy addition to the extraordinary body of work that Metheny has been building since he burst onto the international jazz scene as an innovative 18-year-old in 1974 as a member of Gary Burton's Quartet. Now, as a 46-year-old master, he continues to represent the highest possible musical standard of excellence with each release, with each solo, and at his best, with each note. TRIO > LIVE is yet another exciting and long-awaited documentation of one of the world's most important jazz musicians. The implications of this music, with its deep insight into "the tradition" in all its manifestations, combined with the timeless yet forward-thinking clarity that is watermarked into virtually all of Metheny's work to date, bode well for the future of jazz as it enters its second century in a new millennium.
PAT METHENY TRIO > LIVE
PAT METHENY guitar , LARRY GRENADIER bass, BILL STEWART drums
- DISC ONE
- bright size life (metheny) 4:18
- question and answer (metheny) 19:53
- giant steps (coltrane) 9:51
- into the dream (metheny) 4:27
- so may it secretly begin (metheny) 7:10
- the bat (metheny) 7:28
- all the things you are (kern) 9:37
PRODUCED by pat metheny and steve rodby
pat metheny - electric guitar, acoustic guitar, guitar synth, 42 string guitar, 12 string fretless guitar
larry grenadier - acoustic bass
bill stewart - drums
produced by pat metheny and steve rodby
associate producer - david oakes
recorded by david oakes
mixed by rob eaton
assisted by andrew felluss
digital editing and assembly- steve rodby
recording assistant - carolyn chrzan
technical assistance - pete karam
technical coordination and live sound - david oakes
guitar technician - carolyn chrzan
lighting designer - jody durham
drum technician and u.s. trucking - bill bassett
europe trucking - patrick doona/Redburn Transfer
u.s. bussing - kres bentley
tour manager - jerry wortman
recorded live during 1999 and 2000 on tour in europe, japan and the united states
mixed at right track studio, nyc september 2000
mastered by ted jensen at sterling sound
art direction, design and ferlaufe- karlssonwilker inc., new york
photo- hou vielz
project coordinator-david sholemson