Pat Metheny Quartet epic and electric at Barbican

In these turbulent times small things can provide a reassuring sense of constancy. So Pat Metheny's arrival on stage clutching a 48-string guitar, in a striped t-shirt and jeans, with the smile of a man in his element etched on his face, relayed a sense of 'all is well with the world', a glowing feeling that persisted for the next two and a half hours and beyond.

This was the opening day of the EFG London Jazz Festival – an occasion that always means making a tough choice: the big opening Jazz Voice bash at the Royal Festival Hall, Manu Dibango at Ronnie's, Groove Warriors at the Bull's Head, Michael Janisch Band at Rich Mix, Tomasz Stanko at Cadogan Hall... But Metheny was the stellar billing: a multi-Grammy Award and Downbeat Poll winner whose gigs over the past 40 years have been marked not only by incredible musicianship, adventurous technology and great tunes but by a ferocious commitment to continued musical searching.

Joined for the current cycle of gigs by Brit Gwilym Simcock on piano, Malaysian-born, Australian-raised Linda May Han Oh on bass and 15-year Metheny associate Antonio Sánchez, from Mexico City on drums, Metheny's tune choices were similar to those of the Ronnie Scott's sets last year: lesser known PMG tracks, picks from his 1976 debut Bright Size Life, various Trio albums and the 1992 masterpiece Secret Story. Without a new album to promote this was Metheny enjoying himself with old tunes and finding fresh ways of playing them.

The quartet setting obviously meant we were not to be treated to the aural complexities of The Way Up – the last and perhaps greatest PMG recording, from 2005 – or the epic cuts from albums like First Circle or Imaginary Day to which pianist Lyle Mays made such a contribution. Instead, we had compositions that worked as standards: the poignant yet homely 'Unity Village'; an exciting 'Lone Jack' and rocky 'The Red One' (first recorded with John Scofield); a reggae-ish tune that allowed Simcock to stretch out before Pat mowed us down with soaring guitar synth pyrotechnics. A rapid 'What Do You Want?', from Trio 99/00, followed, Metheny flitting through the rhythm changes with his trademark luminously liquid flow.

'Better Days Ahead' from the 1989 Letter From Home album was an ideal choice for this setting and Simcock grinned and seemed to sing his opening phrase as he set himself up for his solo. Here, he was filling Lyle Mays' shoes with brilliance, joyfully shifting the rhythm and substituting the already complex chord sequence in waves of 10-finger sound, seemingly channelling Mays and McCoy Tyner in a lavish solo. At other times he played a subdued role; mindful perhaps of clashing with Metheny's voicings and embellishments.

Further highlights were the heart-wrenching 'Tell Her You Saw Me' from Secret Story, which showcased Metheny's astonishingly soft touch and ability to shape notes until they drop off the aural spectrum. 'Farmer's Trust' was similarly magical, on acoustic guitar. One of a series of duets saw bassist Oh take the Dave Holland role on 'Change of Heart': what a treat to hear a live version of this gorgeous dream of midwestern Americana from the Q&A album. Oh's sinuous playing complemented the tune so well but Metheny perhaps could have laid-off the backing chords a little more to allow the solo to come through.

If Oh's anchoring of the set was solid, discrete and tuneful, then Antonio Sánchez's contribution was explosive; at times sending shockwaves of awe through the auditorium at his speed and precision. The Migration band leader (current album Bad Hombre), and Birdland film score composer, has developed a sizeable a following in his own right and established himself among the world's finest drum virtuosos. He's also developed a telepathic understanding with Metheny, catching accents and using the full range of timbre that his superbly miked-up kit allowed, with echoes of Roy Haynes. Whereas some drum solos are the cue for a daydream, his were totally melodic and based on the song form – and demanded maximum focus from Oh and Metheny as to when to intrude. His duet was stratospheric: a garage-band rendition of 'Q&A' that finally entered sonic outer space.

What a shame that ticket prices for this kind of performance prevent many younger people attending; the quartet got more than one standing ovation but would have truly ignited the atmosphere at a less senior-oriented occasion, such as in a Love Supreme-style setting. Some audience members might have pined for the PMG 'hits' 'Are You Going With Me', 'Third Wind' and 'First Circle', but as with Steely Dan a fortnight ago at the 02, the group could have played a five-hour set and still not played everyone's favourites.

Finally, Metheny brought us back to the turbulent and disturbing present with a solo medley with 'This is Not America' at its heart (co-written with Mays and David Bowie). He hadn't said much on mic but this rendition was so emotionally charged that no words were needed. We knew what he meant.

– Adam McCulloch
– Photo by Tim Dickeson

Pat Metheny Quartet plays in Hull tonight, Dublin on Monday, Belfast Tuesday and Reykjavik, Iceland on Friday 17 November.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad

  The entire spectrum can dazzle at Jazztopad, a Polish festival in...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards return for 2019

The Jazz FM Awards return for a sixth time next...

Read More.....

Chick Corea, Madeleine Peyroux and Kamaa…

The organisers of the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which runs...

Read More.....

Peter Boizot 1929 – 2018

The press obituaries for Peter Boizot, who has died aged...

Read More.....

David Mossman – 17 July 1942 - 8 Decembe…

Ahead of starting the Vortex in 1988, there is nothing...

Read More.....

Greg Fox and Pulverize The Sound punish …

  The second phase of Poland’s Jazz Jantar festival involved five nights...

Read More.....

Astral Progression Ensemble and Irrevers…

  Jazz Jantar has been running in the northern Polish port...

Read More.....

Tippett & Bourne, Liane Carroll and…

The Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival will return for its...

Read More.....

Jessica Radcliffe poised an poetic for R…

In this centenary year of the end of the First...

Read More.....

Iridescent Ibrahim Leads Multi-Horn Boon…

The Barbican's foyer is still resounding to the tumultuous multi-horned...

Read More.....

Maisha raise Afro-futurist spirits at Gh…

Scrolling down the posts on Facebook, from people pleading for...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin and 4th Dimension Back F…

Legendary jazz-rock guitarist John McLaughlin has just announced a return...

Read More.....

Dave Douglas Supergroup Dazzles Among Ho…

  Guimarães is Portugal’s birthplace. Surrounded by verdant hills, this quiet...

Read More.....

Bill Laurance Goes Big At Southbank With…

  At certain moments during this concert, Bill Laurance looks like...

Read More.....

Trans-Atlantic Team-Up: Chicago X London…

Much has been written about the jazz scene that has...

Read More.....

Dalston Devils: Branch and Brandon Lewis…

The Vortex and Cafe OTO are separated by a few...

Read More.....

Mike and Leni Stern light up Ronnie Scot…

What an unexpected pleasure to see Mike Stern exchanging guitar...

Read More.....

22-year-old saxophonist Xhosa Cole wins …

Saxophonist Xhosa Cole has been announced as the winner of...

Read More.....

Braxton and Marclay Broker New Sonic Exp…

  The UK premiere of Anthony Braxton's 'Composition No 103' (1983)...

Read More.....

Delay-gratification – Bill Frisell’s spe…

Bill Frisell isn't much of a talker. The music is...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy, Jamie Cullum and Gladys Kn…

The first artists have been revealed for next year's Love...

Read More.....

Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spiritual…

This evening gets off to a flying start with Simon...

Read More.....

Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman, The Bad P…

The first names have been revealed for next year's Cheltenham...

Read More.....

Billy Harper charges up Church Of Sound

A house of praise is the perfect setting for one...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective Get Sweaty And Prophetic…

  "This is about joy and happiness and celebrating everything that's...

Read More.....

GoGo Penguin: Kings Of The Bill Take Fli…

  The Concorde usually hosts mid-ranking rock bands or popular club...

Read More.....

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad https://t.co/5dh463wBww @Jazztopad @bradmehldau @NonesuchRecords @EspeSpalding… https://t.co/YN3S9PBGRJ
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Fuelled by the belief that classic jazz feeds the heart and soul, @hotsardines are on a mission to make old sounds… https://t.co/6Dx7RrUXwP
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA