PAT METHENY GROUP Pat Metheny Group (ECM)
I feel I should read even more carefully than usual when evaluating the Pat Metheny Group’s eponymous debut. On the one hand, I was somewhat taken aback to hear a track from it used as hold music whilst waiting for a teleconference at work. On the other, in the back cover photo the four gentlemen responsible look not unlike a mildly scrubbed-up Metallica.
“Pat Metheny Group” sounds like the work of a band whose jazz education started with Return To Forever and Weather Report: I’ve never heard a jazz record that so successfully managed to unhook itself from the albatross of the genre’s long and illustrious heritage. It’s bright and twinkly, melodic and subtle electric jazz that still sounds freshly minted 30 years after it was recorded. There are no “Look at me!” moments of instrumental pyrotechnics – even Metheny’s solo guitar spot “April Wind” showcases his liquid tone above obvious technique. Rather, it feels like the work of a real group, with the musicians’ solos woven into the fabric of the music itself. “Lone Jack” is as frenetic as the album gets, and even then you might have to concentrate closely on it before realising the musicians are working up a sweat, but effort is most definitely being expended. Admittedly there are moments when the album strays perilously close to the mild side – the opening moments of “Phase Dance”, for example, seem so perfectly tailored to play over an American sitcom’s credits that I can’t hear it without visualising shots of the sun rising over moneyed urban cityscapes – but mostly this warm and inviting album repays all the attention you can give it. Naturally, being a Manfred Eicher production, it also sounds lovely.