fri 21/06/2024

An Evening with Pat Metheny, Barbican - sheer joy under the Missouri sky | reviews, news & interviews

An Evening with Pat Metheny, Barbican - sheer joy under the Missouri sky

An Evening with Pat Metheny, Barbican - sheer joy under the Missouri sky

A strong start to the 25th EFG London Jazz Festival

Pat Metheny in Glasgow in 2007William Ellis

Pat Metheny recently described quite how much he enjoys just being on stage: “As Phil Woods used to say, the concert, that's for free. What the promoter is paying for is getting on the plane, getting off the plane, to pack your suitcase. The actual gig – you can have that for nothing.”

And that is the spirit in which he and the other members of this relatively recently formed quartet are going round the world gigging. This new group first went on the road in the Far East in April 2016 and has been touring since then. One member of the group has an association which goes back more than a decade, drummer Antonio Sanchez, and there are two relative newcomers, bassist Linda May Han Oh and pianist Gwilym Simcock. And the concept: “I thought it would be fun to play old tunes through the prism of new musicians.” The set-list is taken from several albums – like Still Life (Talking), Letter from Home, Offramp and First Circle. He visits classic tunes like "Minuano" and "San Lorenzo". He takes solo spots, like an opening sequence on the 42-string Pikasso guitar designed by Linda Manzer, and a closing medley in which he seemed to visit about 25 tunes.

There are many rooms in the Metheny mansion to explore

Metheny recently described one of the musical principles he likes to explore: "The idea of there being static upper structures with moving bass notes that allow an open tonality to exist.” There is a basic dichotomy: the openness of the Missouri sky and the influence of country music will always shine through in his language. They are as much an intrinsic part of Metheny’s music as is the comfort he feels with Wes Montgomery-style velocity, or indeed the polyharmonies and funk language of Herbie Hancock.

Last night’s set went exploring in many of these directions, and also gave opportunities for the individuality of all of his musicians. Gwilym Simcock (pictured below, by David Forman) was greeted by the audience as a returning local hero and really came into his own in a classically inspired piano introduction. By his standards, however, he did seem a little subdued. Linda May Han Oh is a fluently melodic soloist, and is also equally adept at staying aloof from fast dialogue as she is from getting stuck into it.

Antonio Sanchez showed his vast range, from Birdman solo to discreet brushwork. I loved one gesture where he goes round the drums like a conjuror removing all the cards and the money from a green baize table. Previous groups from recent years have had more overt options with melody, such as Cuong Vu's trumpet or Richard Bona's vocals, but there can be no doubt, this group's armoury of possibilities is massive, and excursions into metre-less free playing and full-on space-movie electronic distortion increased the sense that there are many rooms in the Metheny mansion to explore.Gwilym Simcock

There was just one irritant and it wasn’t coming from the stage. Tell me, just when did this business of repeatedly taking time out to go out of the hall to collect drinks during a performance become a thing? In a concert hall arranged in seated rows, the spell for the rest of us is broken twice per visit to the bar. Thanks a bunch.

But in the end the humungous quantities of energy, stamina and joy that Metheny can generate do conquer everything. Last night’s Barbican set on the first night of the EFG London Jazz Festival was not much short of two and three quarter hours, but it never seemed to flag. I clocked one particular moment when Metheny’s sense of sheer elation seemed particularly complete. Just into the third hour, he launched into a searing, soaring electric guitar solo in the third of his duets with other members of the band. And as he did so, his face settled into a blissed-out grin. He is not an egotist, far from it, but there must be a very great sense of fulfilment and completeness to be had from being Pat Metheny and from exploring this music afresh. And there certainly is from listening to him.


The humungous quantities of energy, stamina and joy that Pat Metheny can generate over almost three hours conquer everything


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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The man's accomplishment from bright sized life to the ever present now is something that always remains unforgettable anyone seeing him for the first time and with an exemplary band will take some days to come down

For those interested, the full Metheny Barbican setlist has now been published HERE

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