A lot can transpire with Pat Metheny in 10 years, but it’s nice to be able to look back at this 1998 concert, filmed with multiple cameras and excellent sound at the gorgeous Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California.
Though the bulk of the material comes from the Metheny Group’s ’97 album, Imaginary Day, the band doesn’t perform every song, nor in sequence, and three songs from other albums are also included.
Metheny begins the set solo, with “Into The Dream,” playing one of luthier Linda Manzer’s amazing multi-string acoustics – a combination baritone, harp-guitar, koto, which only Metheny (or an octopus) could do justice to. By song’s end, the band has also taken the stage to punctuate the dramatic ending.
The guitarist switches to his Roland GR-303, and the band lays down the groove of “Follow Me,” with the group’s longtime nucleus (keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Steve Rodby, and drummer Paul Wertico) augmented by Jeff Haynes’ percussion and the dual acoustic rhythms and vocal harmonies of Mark Ledford and Philip Hamilton. Metheny employs a standard guitar tone to state the melody, but kicks in a synth sound somewhere between trumpet and organ for the solo.
Strapping on the Ibanez hollowbody that replaced his tour-worn Gibson ES-175 for “A Story Within The Story,” Pat achieves the familiar tone of his earlier records, and spotlights his pure-jazz chops (revealing influences Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall) in the extended solo.
Which brings up the inevitable question, “Is it jazz?”
Metheny & Co. have indeed carved out a niche not previously occupied in jazz, in terms of their music and popularity. In one configuration or another, Metheny has won 17 Grammys, including 1998’s Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for Imaginary Day. Along the way, there have been flirtations with new-age music, with notable differences being that Metheny comes from deep jazz roots and the fact that most new-agers couldn’t begin to play music this complex, not to mention this energetic.
Along with the Imaginary Day material, Metheny offers “Message To A Friend” (the only song not co-written by Mays) on solo gut-string. Mays and Metheny then duet on the extended “September Fifteenth” before all concerned wind things up with a blowing “Minuano.”
Metheny concerts are anything but stingy in terms of quality or quantity, and this DVD, clocking in just over 90 minutes with an interview with the bandleader, is no exception.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.