Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pat Metheny - Unity Band (Nonesuch, 2012)

Unity Band is Pat Metheny’s first album to feature a saxophonist since the 1980’s when he collaborated with Ornette Coleman on Song X and Michael Brecker and Dewey Redman on 80/81. This group has as its members: Metheny on guitars, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. They achieve a strong jazz sound, sometimes tinged with fusion or folk music but always with modern jazz at the center. Highlights of the album include “Roofdogs” with opens with Metheny playing guitar synthesizer pushed my strong drumming. Potter’s fast moving saxophone joins the fray about two minutes into the performance, snaking and slithering amongst the bass and drums, keeping things moving along briskly. It is very interesting and exciting to hear the synthesized guitar and tenor saxophone intertwining on this song. Acoustic guitar and shades of bass clarinet open “Come and See” before Metheny and Potter switch to electric guitar and tenor saxophone. Long tones of saxophone are framed by shades of bass clarinet and the development of a liquid toned guitar solo. Potter delves into a strong tenor saxophone solo prodded ever forward by deep bass and drums, making a really strong and powerful statement. “Leaving Town” has a jaunty, upbeat melody with a nimble guitar solo over nice drum textures. Developing a fast trio section, they make way for a dramatic tenor saxophone solo. Finally, the concluding track, “Breakdealer” ends the album on a really high note beginning with a fast paced guitar and then adding quicksilver tenor saxophone to the mix. A powerful full band improvisation comes together with all four members of the group digging in deep in a full-throttle improvisation led by really impressive saxophone. Pat Metheny keeps some pretty heavy company on this record and that challenge brings out a very good record. While it may not appeal to the pop-jazz fans of the Pat Metheny Group, those looking for adventurous mainstream jazz should feel right at home. Unity Band - amazon.com

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