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Pat Metheny: Trio 99 > 00

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Like anyone else who was even remotely associated with the guitar back in 1976-either as aficionado or practicing musician-I was blown away by Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life. With that solo debut on ECM, which also featured Jaco Pastorius on bass and Bob Moses on drums, Metheny single-handedly redefined the guitar trio with a personal voice that was a force of nature unto itself-like wind blowing through trees or waterfalls cascading down a mountainside. On this superb outing with drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Larry Grenadier, the great guitarist revisits that spare setting he has shown a particular fondness for throughout his career (see also 1984’s Rejoicing with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins and 1989’s Question and Answer with Dave Holland and Roy Haynes).

A master of melodic improvisation, Metheny spews endless streams of ideas at all tempos on Trio 99R00, flowing over the bar line with that perfect yin-yang of total command and complete abandon.

Metheny comes out of the gate with a focused intensity on the uptempo opener, “(Go) Get It,” building up a searing momentum with his superb rhythm section mates as they collectively go for the burn. They romp through a loose reading of Metheny’s funky blues “Soul Cowboy” with the guitarist tossing off some rather dissonant sparks and radical intervallic leaps along the way, and they return to the burn on Metheny’s “What Do You Want?”. Aside from this more frantic, open-ended bop-and-blues blowing, Metheny also treats listeners to sublimely lyrical offerings like “The Sun in Montreal,” “We Had a Sister” and his folksy acoustic number “Just Like the Day,” which tugs gently at the heartstrings.

The trio dusts off two older pieces that came out of the writing partnership of Metheny and pianist Lyle Mays-“Lone Jack” from 1978’s Pat Metheny Group and the gentle “Travels,” the title track from a 1982 Metheny Group album. They also play the hip card with a cover of Wayne Shorter’s little-known “Capricorn” and they take great liberties with the Broadway show tune “A Lot of Living to Do” (from Bye Bye Birdie). Another pleasant surprise here is Metheny’s breezy, bossa-flavored interpretation of “Giant Steps,” in which he turns Trane’s ultimate proving ground into an alluring vehicle for melodic improvisation.

A stellar trio date by one remarkable guitarist.