Pat Metheny burst onto the jazz scene in the 1970s as a guitar wunderkind, playing in vibraphonist Gary Burton’s band before establishing a career as a leader that’s been successful and influential by every conceivable metric. Now, with his new band Side-Eye, the 67-year-old guitarist is working with a rotating group of younger musicians. In the press materials for Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV), he explains that when he was a young player himself he’d benefited from older musicians like Burton hiring him and giving him a chance to develop through what he described as “the prism of their experiences.” He’s now interested in playing with those of a different generation “where there seems to be some kind of kinship happening.”
A live album recorded in New York City before the pandemic hit, Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV) spotlights two gifted rising stars: pianist/keyboardist James Francies and drummer Marcus Gilmore. More than half the album contains new material, and the rest features novel takes on some of Metheny’s older compositions. The trio enthusiastically dives into and explores a range of musical styles, bookending the collection with two new pieces: the electronica-tinged “It Starts When We Disappear” and the kaleidoscopic “Zenith Blue.” Originally featured on saxophonist Michael Brecker’s 1999 album Time Is of The Essence, “Timeline” gets turned into a soul-jazz outing here, and Metheny delivers some ferocious rock guitar on “Lodger.”
Metheny and his bandmates bring energy and fresh perspectives to the music on this album, whether it’s previously unheard or a decades-old favorite. The Side-Eye concept is a great setting for the leader, and a dream gig for any young musician who gets to play in the group—and benefit from Metheny’s experience the way he benefited from his elders all those years ago.