The last time Pat Metheny recorded with an orchestra was in 1993. Jeremy Lubbock’s arrangement were part of still amazing compositions like “Finding And Believing” (with Gil Goldstein on accordion), the outstanding “The Longest Summer”, or “Always And Forever”. Many albums and tours have gone by since then (and his own “Orchestrion” project of 2010) and here is the wonder guitarist with ten new compositions, as usual rhythmically complex, extremely diverse and vast as we’ve come to expect from him.
Gwilym Simcock on piano adds exciting improvs on tunes like “Wide And Far”, bassist Linda May Han Oh is excellent and very much at the front and center of this, and drummer Antonio Sanchez always comes up with unbelievable patterns, fills, and backdrops that never cease to amaze me. Thankfully, the orchestra arrangements, conducted by Joel McNeely (music composer for films and television) and executed by Gil Goldstein and Alan Broadbent, don’t use too much space on the tunes and yes, there are those typical melancholic beauty moments too. “Same River” has exactly these qualities and ingredients and brings some reassurance into the mix. And here, the orchestra adds just about the right amount of effect. Lots of drama, despair, vulnerability, and eccentricity take over on “You Are”.
There is a feeling of hope and optimism on “Pathmaker” with a shimmering piano solo by Gwilym before the piece changes to some intricate finale. What a joy it is to hear Grégoire Maret on harmonica (he will release his new album, the wonderful “Americana” with Bill Frisell on April 24th) on the heartwarming “The Past In Us”. The title track has lyrics by Alison Riley and is sung by Meshell Ndegeocello. It was especially written with her in mind and brings another element of hope and longing with the lyrics starting off pretty lugubrious and forlorn. But Meshell manages to cope with them in almost majestic fashion.
By the time I got to the last two songs on the album, I was unexpectedly exhausted. The 77 minutes in total leave marks and even though there are still more exceptional moments like the bass and strings duet on “Sixty-Six”, another dreamscape-kind of composition and the equally dreamful “Love May Take A While” where the orchestra finally has its big entrance (thanks to Alan Broadbent who really is a master arranger) and cushions Pat’s meandering improvisations, I guess this album fares much better focusing on individual tracks than bathing in the whole gamut.