sun 19/11/2017

Pat Metheny, Ronnie Scott's | reviews, news & interviews

Pat Metheny, Ronnie Scott's

Pat Metheny, Ronnie Scott's

A sublime performance from a jazz guitar legend

'Blissful': Path MethenyMattia Luigi Nappi

£100 – £175 is a lot of money to pay for two hours of music, but that’s what it cost to see Pat Metheny at Ronnie Scott’s this week. The guitar great is in town with his new quartet, a dream team comprising British pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda Oh (a major name on the New York scene who I first saw performing with Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas’ Sound Prints quintet) and drummer Antonio Sánchez, a long-time Metheny collaborator and the composer of the acclaimed score to Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman.

Shoehorned in at the bar, with the rest of the club packed to the rafters, I caught the early show on Wednesday night – the first of eight sets, but by no means a warm-up. In fact, it was probably the most flawless small band performance I have ever seen: as slick as Metheny’s Brylcreem guitar sound, and ingeniously choreographed.

Metheny knows the power of a good tune 

It began with Metheny alone on stage, in trademark stripy T-shirt, conjuring sitar-like shimmers from his appropriately cubist-looking 42-string Pikasso guitar, and it ended with the simplest of improvisations on electro-acoustic. In between there were engrossing duets from the guitarist and each member of the band and all the Metheny hits you could have wanted, each of them greeted by whoops of recognition from the crowd.

“Have You Heard” glided over the silkiest of swing feels, lightening-fast but no match for Metheny, on classic hollow-body electric now, the style of guitar played by his hero Wes Montgomery. “James” opened with just guitar and drums, propelled by nothing but the patter of Sánchez’s snare before the bass dropped in, and a funk-drunk rendition of “The Red One”, with Oh on electric bass, brought snatches of hip hop groove and a lava flow of blazing guitar synth.

Metheny knows the power of a good tune and he crammed in as many as possible, only speaking briefly to introduce the members of the band. When we got to “Minuano”, I confess I had a lump in my throat. I’m no Metheny superfan, but I played that tune countless times in big bands growing up, as I’m sure many other musicians did. Hearing it live brought a sudden rush of nostalgia, warm as an embrace. Just as blissful was the breathtakingly controlled “Midwestern Night’s Dream”, which built to a climax, borne by buttery guitar chords before melting away.

You could criticise Metheny for being a little cheesy at times and for sticking to the middle of the road, but even those objections were met in “Question and Answer”, a duet with Sánchez full of crunchy, dissonant guitar synth. This was very much the Metheny show, and there were moments when it felt as though Simcock and Oh were relegated to the position of accompanists, playing for the guitarist rather than with him, but Sánchez was always assertive. He creates an astonishing array of different textures with his kit – crisp cymbal sounds like the crunch of compacted snow under foot and parched rattles – dry timbres that were the perfect foil for the sheen of Metheny’s guitar.

It really is a shame that all of the tickets were so expensive. That completely prices out music students, for instance – young guitarists who would gain a lot from seeing Metheny live. Even so, did we get 175 quid’s worth? No question. This was small-group jazz at the very highest level.

@ThomasNRees

Probably the most flawless small band performance I have ever seen

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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