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Pat Metheny Trio: Trio > Live

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Guitarist Pat Metheny’s music and approach belies rigid compartmentalization. While he’s quite capable of handling straightahead jazz, Metheny will periodically explore the avant-garde, dabble with rock and funk grooves, venture into folk or New Age themes, even utilize feedback and noise. He’s equally impressive on acoustic or electric instruments, and his playing seldom lapses into gimmick, even when he’s tinkering with guitar synthesizers or adding a 42-string and/or 12-string fretless axe into his arsenal. Although he spent a four-year period in the ’70s working with pianist Paul Bley, bassist Jaco Pastorius and most notably Gary Burton, Metheny’s best work has always come when’s he’s a bandleader, with his vision, compositions and style determining the musical agenda. Metheny’s current trio, which features bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart, are spotlighted on this two-disc set chronicling various concert numbers recorded during 1999 and 2000 tours in Europe, Japan and America, respectively.

The best works are lengthy pieces where Metheny and comrades juggle tempos, switch themes, mix solos and intersect in odd places. Their songs are sometimes erratic, but they’re never total flops. The nearly 20-minute “Question and Answer” on the first disc, or 18-minute plus “Faith Healer” on disc number two, send the listener in multiple directions and on different paths. The moods range from pastoral to bombastic, the solos from calm to clashing. Metheny’s touch and sound are immediately recognizable, and frequently delightful. He provides everything from sonic fireworks to tender phrases, nimble chordal accompaniment, flashy phrases and careful statements. Metheny’s not a bluesy or soulful stylist, yet his playing on “Into the Dream,” “Unity Village” and “Night Turns Into Day” has a striking clarity and hypnotic edge.

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