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July/August 2003

Pat Metheny
One Quiet Night
Warner Brothers

Guitarist Pat Metheny constantly seeks fresh ways of expressing himself and reconfiguring his music. That frequently gets him in hot water with audiences who prefer either his electric, outside-leaning compositions or fans that favor his acoustic, pastoral pieces. But Metheny seldom repeats himself or stays in one place, a tactic that makes every new project intriguing. One Quiet Night does take a small step back in terms of sensibility. It's as lush, serene and evocative as early albums like Bright Size Life or New Chautauqua except Metheny's a far more confident, striking and fluid improviser now than he was in the '70s. He also made a provocative technical decision, recording these pieces with a baritone guitar and working with a single microphone. He willingly exposes listeners to a fuller, more vivid presentation, complete with missteps and flaws. But the disc's results are far more satisfying than negative.

As a guitar showcase, Metheny has played faster, more flamboyantly and more energetically than he does on such numbers as "One Quiet Night," "My Song," "Another Chance" or "Time Goes On." Since there's no other instruments backing him, the listener clearly hears Metheny sometimes backtracking in mid-song, as he does on "Another Chance," or working things out on the fly during "Over on 4th Street." However, these things are totally balanced by his frequently beautiful voicings and phrasing. The set's two new numbers, "Song for the Boys" and "Over on 4th Street" are especially illustrative of Metheny's penchant for reconfiguring, tinkering, then finally delivering at the song's conclusion.

Metheny's always been among my favorite players, someone whose various musical journeys can be pleasing, stimulating, or shocking, but will never be boring. One Quiet Night won't ultimately rank among his greatest works, but it is arguably his most personalized recording thus far in a distinguished career.

Originally published in July/August 2003
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