Pat Metheny Group - Speaking of Now Live
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Pat Metheny, is a prolific jazz guitarist, whose work ranges from avant-garde to commercial fusion. With Speak of Now - Live In Concert, the Pat Metheny Group launches a tight, intense, uplifting, and musically complex assortment of sounds that has never been put together before and can be enjoyed by all in one outstanding performance. The band features Metheny (guitar), Lyle Mays (keyboards), Steve Rodby (acoustic bass, cello), Richard Bona (vocals, percussion, guitar, bass), Cuong Vu (trumpet, vocals) and Antonio Sanchez (drums). PMG marks their 25th Anniversary with the release of "Speak Of Now" - Live In Concert.
1. Last Train Home
2. Go Get It
3. As It Is
5. Insensatez (How Insensitive)
6. The Gathering Sky
8. A Place in the World
9. Scrap Metal
10. Another Life
11. On Her Way
12. Are You Going with Me?
13. The Roots of Coincidence
14. A Map of the World ~ In Her Family
15. Song for Bilbao
There's nary a flaw to be found in this lengthy (135 minutes) concert performance by guitarist Pat Metheny and his sextet, recorded in Tokyo in 2002. The musicianship is superb, the material (much of it drawn from the Metheny Group album of the same name) strong, the sound and visuals impeccable, the audience respectful... and therein lies the problem, such as it is. The whole effect is a bit sterile; there's little of the communication between listeners and players that can ignite jazz or rock shows in more intimate, less formal settings. Co-founders Metheny and keyboardist Lyle Mays, longtime bassist/co-producer Steve Rodby, and the three more recent members (multi-instrumentalists Richard Bona and Cuong Vu and drummer Antonio Sanchez) are all brilliant, versatile players. And it's nice to hear their interpretations of Jobim's "How Insensitive" and Metheny's lovely title tune from the film A Map of the World. But unless you get off on seeing a lot of close-ups of Metheny's facial contortions, listening to the PMG's recordings should suffice. --Sam Graham
- Songs: Last Train Home, Go Get It, As It Is, Proof, Insensatez (How Insensitive), The Gathering Sky, You, A Place in the World, Scrap Metal, Another Life, On Her Way, Are You Going with Me?, The Roots of Coincidence, A Map of the World--In Her Family, Song for Bilbao
Top customer reviews
In contrast, this DVD is a significant departure from the CD of the same title. Although 7 of the 9 songs from the CD are included here, we're also treated to 9 other songs. Overall it's a very different experience from the CD, and for that reason alone I can recommend this DVD. But there are plenty of other reasons as well (particularly the last track).
As with other PMG live concerts captured on DVD, the audio is outstanding. As on the "We Live Here" DVD, this concert was recorded live in Tokyo and appears to use essentially the same videography team. The videography was a bit better this time around, but frankly it's nothing special and it's the audio rather than video that makes these DVDs worthwhile. My primary interest in watching, rather than just listening, was to get a better feel for the performers themselves...what they look like, how they interact with each other and their instruments, and who plays what on various songs.
One thing I liked about this DVD compared to "We Live Here" was that it captured a feel for the performance better, abandoning the annoyingly abrupt segues and interspersed interviews, and just letting the music roll exactly as if you were at the concert. It felt more cohesive to me.
PMG newcomers Richard Bona and Cuong Vu are smokin' here and each brings his own influences that, while retaining that classic sound we've come to expect from the PMG, also evolve it into something that reflects their fingerprints as well.
Bona, originally from Cameroon, is a truly gifted performer and were there nothing else worthwhile on the video, I'd still recommend it just to see him. His fretless bass/vocal scat solo on "Song for Bilbao" is phenomenal and an otherwise docile crowd comes alive for it. Second only to Pat himself, Bona is featured numerous times on the video as a spotlight performer. This guy is a major talent. He plays too many instruments to mention here. Suffice to say, they all play a part in giving a full, intricate sound to the group.
As a trumpet player myself, I was particularly impressed with Vu. I remarked elsewhere that his playing reminds me of a minimalist painting - nothing wasted, everything counts. He reminds me of the proverbial "man of few words." When he speaks, you're advised to listen...he's got something to say, something worth hearing. His playing often has a mesmerizing, haunting quality to it - sometimes almost like the midnight keening of a bird over the lake. It's also a very mellow sound, not unlike a flugelhorn in some ways. And as with previous incarnations of the PMG where the players outside "core" members of the group played a multitude of instruments, Vu adds to the sonic texture of the group with things like the marimba, bells, vocals, and percussion.
Next, let's talk about the drums. As a Paul Wertico fan, I was not sure what to expect from Antonio Sanchez. But let's put it this way: I was not disappointed. He knows his way around a drum set. Big time. I enjoyed his playing every bit as much as Wertico. Actually seeing him play, rather than just listening, was interesting for me. He's an extremely serious guy. Wertico strikes me as more of a "free spirit" when he plays - having fun, a bit of a wild child. In contrast, with Sanchez you get the impression of somebody at work ... almost a Carl's Jr. "don't bother me - I'm drumming" vibe eminates from the guy. He takes his craft very, very seriously. And he's very, very good at it. We're treated to a tasty solo from him on the last track, "Song for Bilbao." It's the epitome of what I think of when I think "jazz."
As usual, Rodby is rock-solid on the bass. When you take the time to tune out the rest of the instruments and just listen to the bass lines, he's as much a driving force in grooving the band as Sanchez. On one of the songs, "Roots of Coincidence," Rodby uses the bow on the upright bass, rather than the usual plucking - giving a symphonic-like sound to an especially dramatic section of the piece.
Lyle Mays as usual is terrific and he solos quite a few times on this DVD. Never known as being a real animated fellow, he does manage to crack a smile or two and lets us know that behind the poker face there lives somebody who really does enjoy what he does for a living. I've spoke of his talents in my other reviews, and won't repeat them here. Bottom line: he and Metheny form one of the most prolific and talented teams in jazz today, and Mays is huge part of what makes the PMG special. He even picks up the guitar and joins Pat for one of the tracks ("On Her Way")...I didn't even know Mays played the instrument.
Striped-shirt Metheny himself spends quite a bit of time on acoustic instruments on this DVD, and I have remarked before on his ability to deliver a poetic, poignant experience on those instruments. He does so here on numerous occasions. We even get to see that really strange-looking custom-made 42-string guitar commissioned by Pat to Canadian instrument maker Linda Manzer - dubbed the Pikasso guitar - that sounds like a cross between a zither and a sitar. He uses it on "Are You Going With Me" and it sounds so different than the version on the album "Offramp" that I had trouble recognizing it was the same tune. The same can be said for many of the other 8 songs that appear on this DVD and aren't from the "Speaking of Now" CD. They appear on other PMG CDs, but you have to listen carefully because they are orchestrated and performed totally differently here. They feel like entirely new songs rather than old friends. One song in particular, "Roots of Coincidence" has moments that have a distinctly hard rock feel to them - something I've never heard from Metheny before.
All in all, I enjoyed the DVD. If you're a Metheny fan, this DVD is worth checking out. You'll get things here you won't get elsewhere, not even on the CD of the same title. If you're new to the PMG, it's worth noting that the selections on this DVD were a bit more eclectic than what you'll find on most of the group's CDs, so you might want to listen to some of their other CDs before rendering an overall verdict on their music. I recommend "Still Life Talking." It's their all-time best seller and I've never met anyone who doesn't like it.
In closing, my pick of the litter for the DVD was the last track: "Song for Bilbao." It captures the signature PMG sound, putting them squarely in that sweet spot where they groove the best. The tune showcases the whole band, including a Gillespie-like solo from Vu, an amazing bass/vocal scat from Bona that I already mentioned above, and a chance for Sanchez to really show us his chops. I must have played that track 10 times in a row and still couldn't get enough of it. Indeed, that one alone was worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned. If for no other reason, get the DVD so you can experience that tune.
I had to buy the DVD and was floored! This DVD sits right in my 6-disc DVD changer (#6) and I never take it out. Everyone knows it's a permanent fixture there. From time to time I have to watch it again, over and over. It totally captivates me. It's a great production in terms of visual quality, length and sound quality. I do agree that the audience seems almost artificial but who cares! I have previewed other PMG materials; call me ignorant, but I think this is his best stuff. The creativity of the percusionist and his vocals (acting like a seperate instrument), the trumpet player that can do things I never heard. The bassist is 100% PERFECT. I was looking for at least 1 note he may have screwed up: NOTHING perfect! Uncanny! The drummer? Whoa! This dude is beserk! One of the best drummers I have ever heard and he has a kit that's expansive. Lyle Mays is sheer genius. People if you want to learn what good music really is, do yourself a favor and get this DVD. It's not enough just to hear the music. When you see it live and see how much these guys are into their music, it takes you away. A must buy, worth every penny, you won't regret it!
It starts with the accoustic guitar piece "Last Train Home" done solo that is really awesome. Next it rolls into this insanely fast, million note jazz jam with Pat and the drummer. At this point I was impressed and realized Pat's a better guitar player than I thought, and the drummer is awesome. Then he rolls on the rest of his band. I'll just make comments on some of my favorites: The next song that really grabs me is "Proof". It has great solos by Pat and Cuong. "How Insensitive" is next and is with the trio - Pat, Steve and Antonio. This contains some really beautiful playing by Pat. Next song that catches my ear is "A Place in the World". I like the main melody line. "On Her Way" has a really cool intro done by Richard Bona using voice, delay and various odds and ends that he layers together. Next Pat plays this solo song on this guitar that has 4 guitars in one - looks like it includes a sitar and 2 harp guitars.
All in all, this group delivers a very dynamic and complex performance. I'm especially impressed with Antonio and Richard. I'm no drummer but I think Antonio is an awesome jazz percussionist - he plays these complex syncopated patterns on cymbals and drums that totally lay in a groove and liven up the music. Richard adds in many great voice parts and effects and accompaniment that rounds out the performance.
My only disappointment was that Pat didn't talk at all, or even acknowledge his band at the conclusion of the show. Come on guys, come up front and take a bow and show some love.
The audio quality of the DVD is high and it sounds good on a good 2 channel stereo system. The video quality and editing is pretty good too. If you like the Pat Metheny Group, you'll love this DVD.