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Unity Band

4.4 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 12, 2012
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For the first time since his 1980 release 80/81, guitarist Pat Metheny has recorded with a band that features tenor saxophone. Unity Band introduces a new Metheny ensemble with Chris Potter on sax and bass clarinet, longtime collaborator Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Ben Williams on bass. The album features nine Metheny compositions, new for 2012.

Metheny says of the three-decade gap since his last project to feature saxophonists (the late great Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker): "In many ways my bands were envisioned as an alternative to the more conventional kinds that I had come up playing in. The fact that it has taken another 30 years to get to it again is kind of a testament to how busy those alternative' ways of thinking have kept me.

"We all always talked about revisiting that band at some point, but with both Mike and Dewey gone now, that will never happen," he continues. "But then Chris Potter came along. As a fan, I have watched as he has become one of the greatest musicians of our time, and when we were both invited to play on Antonio Sanchez's debut record, I immediately saw that we had a natural way of playing and phrasing that suggested something more. I started thinking right then of somehow building a project around that."

For the rhythm section, Metheny explains, "Antonio was kind of an obvious choice; he has been one of my closest associates over the past ten years and has also played a lot with Chris. He is such a special musician. There was a certain kind of power I knew that Chris and I would be getting to and I can't think of anyone who could take us to that place better than Antonio." He continues, "A few years ago, Christian McBride invited me to an event that he was leading with the jazz students at Juilliard. Ben Williams was featured on a few tunes and his playing spoke to me immediately. I used Ben a few times to sub for Christian with the trio and found him to be a great playing partner and a great person too. He and Antonio had an instantly effortless rapport."

Once he had assembled this stellar band, Metheny wrote a considerable amount of new material for them. Through rehearsals, they winnowed the music down to the nine tunes on the Unity Band album. "It's funny, I have heard so many guitar/tenor records that have been clearly influenced by that 80/81 sound, and yet I really wanted to try to take it to a different place this time, even though that record was certain to be a reference point along the way," Metheny says. "One of Antonio's specialties is this even eighth-note thing he does, and in a lot of ways that set a direction for the writing. But still, this is a group of musicians who can do just about anything."
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Digital Booklet: Unity Band
Digital Booklet: Unity Band
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 12, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B007RP4D5Y
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,447 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By RBSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2012
Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Audio CD
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.
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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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