Speaking Of Now is the most momentous album in years from the most honored ensemble in contemporary jazz, the Pat Metheny Group. With a new lineup, including a horn player for the first time and two vocalists, "as has happened at a few other junctures in the band's story," says Metheny, "there is this sense of the possibilities feeling totally unlimited." With Speaking Of Now, the Pat Metheny Group takes a significant step into tomorrow.
Throughout its 25-year history, the Pat Metheny Group has consistently had the power to reinvent itself, developing an ever-broader musical vision. Speaking of Now
reflects substantial changes since the band was last assembled. The core remains intact, with Lyle Mays
, Metheny's composing partner since the beginning, still contributing keyboards and some eloquent acoustic piano. Bassist Steve Rodby is here as well, but there are some new additions. Mexican-born drummer Antonio Sanchez is a creative fountain of rhythm, while Richard Bona
, from Cameroon, has joined the band on vocals and percussion. There's an unearthly serenity in Bona's high-pitched vocals and they've clearly shaped some of the composing here. Trumpeter Cuong Vu
's presence marks the first time a horn player has been a member of PMG, and his laconic, airy trumpet is a perfect complement to Metheny's guitar. The Group has always had the ability to fuse elements from different cultures into a graceful and floating whole, but this version sets new standards for sheer sonic beauty, like the welling orchestral breadth that underscores Bona's voice on "You." Highlights seem to abound, but the guitar solos on "Proof" and "A Place in the World" testify to Metheny's inspiration. --Stuart Broomer