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Unity Band
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Five IMPRESSIVE Stars! Unity, indeed. Multiple Grammy-winning jazz virtuoso guitarist Pat Metheny has assembled a tight, hard-swinging quartet that sounds like its been working for a long time and he gives the group an impressive array of original compositions. "Unity Band" rides the polyrhythms of drummer Antonio Sanchez (especially "Leaving Town"), anchored by the mellow underpinnings of rising star bassist Ben Williams (great "New Year" solo), and tenor sax luminary Chris Potter who adds his soprano sax and bass clarinet to the mix. Metheny, in addition to the wide palette of his electric and acoustical guitar sounds, adds the program-based 'Orchestrion EPK' instrumentation to the proceedings, as on "Signals (Orchestrion Sketch)".The 'best of the best' begins with the altissimo edginess of the "Roofdogs" unison-theme with hot solos by Metheny and Potter, the avant-garde approach of the tone poem "Signals" with its unusual array of sounds and effects from both the 'Orchestrion EPK' and the band, the intensely beautiful ballads "Then and Now" and "This Belongs to You", and perhaps best of all the exotic intensity of "Come and See" which has a great "Willow Weep for Me" Potter quote rising from the musical maelstrom of his solo and a sizzling Metheny improvisation. Pat Metheny is a relentless musical explorer and Unity Band is his impressive new group, producing some exceptional jazz, and it gets My Highest Recommendation. Five RIVETING Stars (This review is based on an mp3 download; 9 tracks + digital booklet, Time: 65:48. "Unity Band" was chosen as the Grammy-winning Best Jazz Instrumental Album of 2012.)
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2012
I love this album! Every track is beautifully captivating and so well written. In my mind this recording tells a wonderful story. Moreover, there is such variation that this album will stand the test of time. I think John Kelman of Allthatjazz sums-it-up great when he ends with the following: "In a career now nearing the four-decade mark, with so many truly classic albums, beginning with his very first, Bright Size Life (ECM, 1975) and leading up to what will surely be considered another career highpoint in Unity Band, Metheny continues to move from strength to strength. Even when a recording like Orchestrion generates no small amount of controversy, this all-encompassing, stylistically voracious guitarist continues to prove that, for him, it's all a process of discovery, evolution and occasionally revolution. For those who miss Pat Metheny Group, Unity Band may not be the solution; but in its combination of detailed writing, instrumental orchestration and unfettered, energetic blowing, it's an alternative that, in its blending of form and freedom, is unequivocally one of Metheny's finest--an album that's sure to find its way to "best of" lists for 2012 and, no doubt, another nomination when the Grammy Awards roll around again, to perhaps round him up to an even--and, in the world of jazz, unprecedented--twenty wins."
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2012
On "Unity Band", Pat Metheny reveals that he can look in two directions at once.
The group he's assembled here is an all-star ensemble.
Drummer Antonio Sanchez has been with him for a decade, while double bassist Ben Williams makes his first appearance with the guitarist, as does tenor saxophonist Chris Potter (whose soprano and bass clarinet playing are on display, too).
Metheny makes full use of this ensemble's possibilities.
He looks back through his catalog and composes for this band from some of the information gleaned there. One can recall the swirling melodic euphoria of the Pat Metheny Group in the guitar and guitar-synth interplay in "Roofdogs".
On the ingenious "Come and See", Metheny's many-stringed Picasso guitar meets Potter's bass clarinet to create a tonal inquiry before Williams and Sanchez establish a deep blue groove. When Potter adds his tenor and Metheny his electric, we get a Latinized swinging pulse that is ever so slightly reminiscent of the 80/81 band with Michael Brecker and Dewey Redman (this isn't the only place that happens here).
Fans of Metheny's more abundantly lyrical side will appreciate the breezy sway of "Leaving Town", though its melody -- twinned by his guitar and Potter -- is full of compelling tight turns, before the rhythm section evokes a deep, swinging blues and the guitarist gets refreshingly funky in his solo.
On "Signals" Metheny uses his Orchestrion and guitar with live loops: the band employs live loops throughout the intro on top.
Potter's tenor solo is emotive, grainy, and reaching, while the atmosphere recalls -- only generally -- the album the guitarist cut with Steve Reich.
The nocturnal, smoky "Then and Now" has a torch ballad quality due to Potter's utterly songlike solo.
The set closer "Breakdealer" begins at the boiling point and gets hotter.
The title hints at what Sanchez does throughout the tune while pushing forward, but Williams not only keeps up, he adds propulsive shades of his own and rocks the arpeggiated changes fluidly.
Metheny and Potter are free to sprint and they do; both dazzle with their lyric invention and knotty, imaginative, nearly boppish solos.
The two front-line players are surely at their best in one another's company on the date: you expect them to be. Yet it's the rhythm section that astonishes thoroughly. Their interplay is not only intuitive, it's informative: it points to new corners for Metheny and Potter to explore.
Given the guitarist's more compositional solo experiments of the last few years -- all of which have been very satisfying -- "Unity Band" is a return to what he does best: composing for, and playing with, a band of top-shelf players. T. Jurek
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2012
I freely confess that I'm a Pat Metheny fanboy, and have been since I stopped dead in a record store back in 1979 that was playing "New Chautauqua." I've bought everything he's recorded (well over a full drawer in my CD cabinet). That being said, I don't rate everything he releases as five stars. For example, I still haven't warmed up to "What's It All About" (liked "One Quiet Night" much more). But this album...this is five stars, and it is, IMHO, the best Metheny release in years, even better than "Day Trip" which I thought was very strong. I can put this on and listen to it over and over and not get bored. I especially love "Signals," much more than anything on the "Orchestrion" album.

While I enjoyed the sax work on "80/81," I have to say I enjoy it here even more.

And as always, Antonio Sanchez is a standout. A great, great drummer. He jumps out at me, like Roy Haynes jumped out on "Question and Answer" long, long ago.

Sorry, I'm drooling. I'll stop now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2014
I mean that both ways, it's nothing like "The Way Up" and it's not, in my view, Pat's way up, it's a step down. Gone is Lyle Mays, gone is melody. Lots of cymbal crashes, half-baked melodies, and, well, you get the idea. I hate it. But I say that only because of how much I love everything up to and including "The Way Up". "Secret Story" is a masterpiece, but so are so many of the Group's past albums. But this CD? Pat, am I losing you? I can't stand losing you. And Lyle, where are you? I miss you so much!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2013
How does he do it? Pat Metheny plays something like 250 shows a year, teaches, and on top of all that cranks out one amazing album after another. I was fortunate enough to see him on the Unity Band tour last year, and it was a seminal show! Chris Potter is incredible (as are the other musicians in Metheny's band). If you already like Pat, you'll love this album, and if you are not yet a fan, this is as good place as any to start. This was my fav jazz album of last year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2012
If you are a fan of PM and his projects you probably already own this. I've been listening to the CD everyday for three weeks now and I'm blown away by the compositions and the level of playing. Would love to catch them live. RM.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2012
After seeing the Unity Band perform at Yoshi's Jazz Club in San Francisco I knew that I needed to own the cd. Everything about the cd is 5 stars. All of the musicians are top notch. I loved it when they had solos that were very "outside" the normal melody. I play 2 particular selections of this cd to get me going if I'm feeling down. It really picks me up and changes my mood.
I've been listening to and buying Pat Metheny's music for almost 30 years. I am a truly devoted fan. I hope others enjoy this cd as much as I do.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2012
I like Pat well enough to buy every release, but it's been a while I recalled why with so much glee. Pat has managed to take his 80's sound into the 2012. The melodies, the feel is there but Mayes is replaces by hot classic jazz tones with touches of Pat's synth guitar on a few selections. While I've enjoyed some of recent releases I have to say this is the best Pat without Mehldau (whom I am a big fan of) since the early 90's. Very happy to hear Pat playing just pure music with joy and with a band that is as every good as he is.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2012
Pat has done it again. This new collection grows on you and gets better each time you hear it. As you listen to the tracts, you hear alot of his old music wafting through the new. A must for Metheny fans.
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