Time for praise: Pat Metheny is the pre-eminent electric guitarist of the last 15 years of this jazz epoch. From his tenure with Gary Burton through the many permutations of his bands to his alliances with Ornette Coleman and Joni Mitchell, Metheny has been consistently progressive and influential. He is that musical anomaly: a commercial success who doesn't ride the dead horse of formula.
Metheny's new disk Quartet is a vivid illustration of the guitarist's modus operandi. Basically an in-studio jam session with fellow travelers Lyle Mays, piano; Steve Rodby, bass; and Paul Wertico, drums, Quartet was recorded during some post-tour downtime in May of '96. The whole feeling is that of a relaxed, vibe-intensive collaboration of equals of one mind and soul. This is a band on psychic transference, quicksilverily warping samba and tango on "Montevideo," channeling Sly Stone and the AEC on "Dismantling Utopia" and sighting UFOs and black hills on the organic suite "Mojave"/"Badlands." Advice: never, never sleep on Pat Metheny.