There are, in all honesty, a lot of people who would be better qualified to write a review on Pat Metheny than me. As a matter of fact, there were probably a couple of thousand of these people in the Waterfront Hall tonight, and there was a definite buzz of excitement as they waited to hear one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time.
Pat Metheny has been recording since the mid-1970’s and I think I first became aware of him through The Pat Metheny Group during the 80’s when he released the Full Circle album, wrote and performed the soundtrack to the film The Falcon and the Snowman (worth a watch, even if it has dated a bit) and worked with David Bowie on the single “This is Not America.”
A lauded and critically acclaimed guitarist, Metheny’s back catalogue is mostly jazz and jazz fusion, although (as you might expect for an artist with 20 Grammys under his belt, in ten different categories) he has been involved in projects that encompass many different musical styles and genres. Sticking purely to jazz, he has worked and collaborated with the likes of Chick Corea, Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorious and Joni Mitchell to name but a few.
Metheny’s current 2016/17 tour is a little different in terms of it’s concept. He’s not touring to promote an album but rather “experimenting” and “researching” by playing some of his older material with a very select group of high quality musicians. Antonio Sanchez (on drums) has played with Metheny since 2000 and was the man responsible for the fabulous score to the Oscar-winning film “Birdman”. Linda May Han Oh is on bass and British-born Gwilym Simcock is on piano/keyboards duty.
Arriving at the Waterfront Hall last night, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that there couldn’t have been a gig on anywhere else in town. Pat Metheny obviously attracts guitarists and jazzers, and I spotted many well known local musicians milling about pre-show. Sadly the Belfast Waterfront wasn’t completely sold out, but there was a healthy crowd in attendance nonetheless.
The show opened with “Into the Dream” a quiet and understated piece, played by Metheny on his 42-stringed Pikasso guitar, built for him in 1984 by Linda Manzer. After this, he was joined on stage by the band and I was immediately struck by the sharp and crisp rhythm section provided by Oh and Sanchez. Oh’s playing has warmth and depth; Sanchez hits the drums with an incredible snap and versatility.
Metheny does what he is famous for, improvising complex and lengthy solos around his compositions, giving each member of the quartet a turn to take the lead.
There’s a real range to this stuff, improvised or not, from late-night jazz to swing to Cuban. Metheny seems to orchestrate much of this non verbally, communicating with the band mostly through nods, and we’re treated to a wonderful piece of musical sparring between drums and piano on one track before Metheny takes it in turns to play a duet with each of the band members.
While the piece played between Metheny and Sanchez was interesting , it was the duet with Oh on bass that stood out for me, a version of “How Insensitive” played with real tenderness and warmth.
After that, things wind up rather quickly, and two standing ovations later, Metheny leaves the stage to thunderous applause.
Review: Michael Barbour.