The Pat Metheny Group

The Pat Metheny Group

album cover

"The Wind Through the Trees in Heaven . . ."

With the pinpoint-precise guitar arpeggios that open "Phase Dance," the Pat Metheny Group blows years of jazz fusion excess to smithereens. Then, having cleared the air, the quartet led by the Missouri-born guitarist Pat Metheny goes off in search of open-sky vistas not typically associated with jazz—its songs evoke idyllic shorelines and pastel-shaded landscapes and snow drifts on a mountainside. One review of Metheny during this period described his music as "the wind through the trees in heaven."

If not that, it is, at the very least, the sound of possibilities multiplying. The compositions on this, the Metheny Group's first foray, are organized around buoyant, irrepressibly optimistic melody lines and tunes that unfold slowly, as episodic journeys. The Group was often described as jazz-fusion, but one trip through the brisk "Lone Jack" or "San Lorenzo" reveals how incomplete that designation is: These beautiful crystalline atmospheres are unlike anything else in music. They have touches of samba, require a skill set far different from most jazz, and use a language for improvisation that draws as much from the rich harmonies of Maurice Ravel as from bebop.

This album established the basic palette of the Metheny Group, an uncluttered sound centered around Metheny's rounded, reverb-soaked tones. Though later albums are more thoroughly choreographed, they still offer stirring atmospheres and breathtaking climactic moments. Equally significant is the music Metheny has made apart from the group, in collaboration with such jazz luminaries as Ornette Coleman (Song X), Roy Haynes (Question and Answer), and others. These projects have helped Metheny grow as a composer, and perhaps because they exist in the shadow of the Group titles, are among the most underappreciated in recent jazz history.

Genre: Jazz
Released: 1978, ECM
Key Tracks: "Phase Dance," "Jaco," "San Lorenzo"
Catalog Choice: Offramp; Letter from Home. Pat Metheny: 80/81; Song X; Rejoicing; Question and Answer
Next Stop: Keith Jarrett: My Song
After That: Pedro Aznar: Contemplation
Book Pages: 500–501

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#1 from bd, Philadelphia - 12/02/2009 6:09

In my opinion, the greatest record ever made. If there was such a thing as a desert island song (one only), San Lorenzo would be it for me.

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