Thursday, October 19, 2006

Music notes for September 2006

I have waited a long time to get hold of Bob Curnow's L.A. Big Band playing The Music of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays (1995). Now and then, KNTU will play a cut from this, but a single song only gets me thirsty for more. Finally it has become available on iTunes.
Just as with the Jason Vieux disc I reviewed recently, this project demonstrates what strong composers Metheny and Mays are. Standout songs from the Metheny Group repetoire, like "The First Circle," "Minuano," and "-It's Just-Talk" avoid what could be stale arrangements in the big band setting. The tunes sound fresh, as if they had been originally composed for this format. I also enjoyed the new setting for songs that originally appeared on Metheny's solo project Second Story: "See the World" and "Always and Forever." Here one can nearly hear that even when Metheny works around a simple melody, there is always an orchestra in this mind ready to sweep the listener into a joy that can only be expressed with the rhythmic nodding of the head. And "In Her Family" loses none of the grace that the original ballad retained, but hits with a powerful calm.

If you are a fan of big band music or a fan of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays (the musicians or composers), this is a project that you will probably want in your collection.
Those who love Jack DeJohnette the drummer should enjoy this little disc called Pictures (1977). It is a bit different from his work with Keith Jarrett's trio, and perhaps some of the seemingly free jazz or ambient type sections might be offputting, but I think this project is worth a listen. It is also nice to see DeJohnette the keyboardist, one who may not knock your socks off with amazing playing, but his sense of melody will show the discerning listener why he is such a great drummer.
Only two muscians: Dejohnette on drums, piano, and organ; John Abercrombie on electric and acoustic guitars. A fine mix.

The highlight of my musical month has to be the first release of a collaboration between Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau (Metheny mentioned in his podcast that another disc would come out early next year). I am not surprised by how much I like this disc. What is nice is that there seems to be a real collaboration of performance. Most of the tunes were composed by Metheny, but Mehldau doesn't sound like a substitute for Lyle Mays. Both players' individual voices are clear here without drowning out the other. Most of the tunes are performed by only Metheny and Mehldau; however two songs come with Mehldau's bassist and drummer. (Metheny says the next disc will be more quartet oriented.)Two of the songs were previously recorded: Mehldau's "Unrequited" and Metheny's " Say The Brother's Name." The new versions are fine, neither improving or diminishing the earlier performances. Standout cuts are, "Ring of Life" and "Make Peace." But everything on this disc is good.

Miscellaneous: I've come across a few old discs that have peaked my interest and been added to various playlists for my working and reading times. I revisited Metheny's Question and Answer, something that should be in every guitar lover's collection....And speaking guitars, check out the project A Guitar Supreme: Giant Steps in Fusino Guitar. This is a terrific compliation of performances, produced by Jeff Richman, of great players handing tunes either composed by John Coltrane (like "Naima" and the title track) or made famous by Coltrane's performance (such as "Afro Blue" and My Favorite Things"). Great stuff...Just added tracks from Thrush Hour: Music to Make It Through Your Day by Jeff Thrush (former sax ace for Steve Taylor's band) to my quiet time playlist (called "relax" for reference)... Maybe next month I can write more, like about an old Michel Petrucciani cd called Date With Time that I scandalously found for 99 cents, or Larry Carlton's latest, Fire Wire, or maybe a cool project from an interesting group: California Guitar Trio's Rocks The West.

But we shall see...or rather, hear.

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