Metheny Trio In Studio and on the Road
Why Pat Metheny remains “controversial” and even reviled by some jazz enthusiasts remains a mystery to me, though of course he also has an enormous international fan base. He’s criticized for not having sufficient “grit” or for being too “happy” for want of a better word. I don’t get it.
No one applied such thinking to another Berklee graduate, the vibraphonist Gary Burton, who’s not exactly an angst-ridden player or person. Maybe the instrument is key to the differing receptions.
In any case, if you find the Pat Metheny Group’s music bland or suffering from eternal optimism or you think Metheny hogs the spotlight, you need to hear him in a trio setting as on this triple LP set that combines the original Day Trip CD recorded in a single day (thus the title) back in 2005 but not issued until 2008 with a live-in-Tokyo EP featuring the same group recorded before the studio session and released in May of 2008.
With Christian McBride on bass and regular Metheny Group drummer Antonio Sanchez on drums, this is a trio of equal parts summing to produce a mostly stellar studio set and an equally fine, sometimes mesmerizingly so live one. Metheny has excelled in a trio setting, meshing superbly with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, as well as Dave Holland and Roy Haynes, among other trios in which he’s played
This album features ten originals that move from the “Son of Thirteen” samba opening, to balladry, to bop, with Metheny and the rhythm section positively swinging Wes Montgomery trio style on “Calvin’s Keys.” Metheny even sneaks in a protest tune, the wistful, sad “Is This America? (Katrina 2005)” played on nylon strung acoustic guitar with bowed Christian McBride bass that weeps real tears. It’s positively Ry Cooder-ish Americana and says a great deal without words needed.
Even though this came out a few years ago I bring it to your attention for a few reasons. The quadruple panel packaging is absolutely gorgeous. The recording quality is superb—however it was done and Joe Ferla’s mix is a masterpiece of understatement both spatially and tonally. It’s believable spectrally and in terms of presenting a trio in a small studio setting.
The studio recording at New York’s Right Track Studios, which has since merged with another to become MSR, was accomplished in a single day (hence the album title) and takes up two full albums. The third reprises the EP CD and was recorded at the Tokyo Blue Note. The Pallas pressing is as good as everything else about this set, which must have been issued on vinyl and so sumptuously per Pat Metheny’s request.
While Nonesuch presses frustratingly small runs and tends not to re-order (Ry Cooder’s and Pat Metheny’s most recent albums—both worth getting—were issued on vinyl and sold out before I could order them shortly after the release date), I’ve seen copies of this one around, perhaps because of the cost.
If you see one, don’t hesitate. Meanwhile, if you see in the used bins a copy of As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (ECM 1190)Metheny’s unusual 1981 collaboration with keyboardist Lyle Mays and percussionist Nana Vaconcelos—particularly if you spot a German pressing—buy that one too! It’s a sonic spectacular, particularly the dreamy-state title tune, which features an unusual sound effects backdrop.
Though mastering credit for this triple LP set goes to the always excellent Mark Wilder, I have no idea who cut the lacquers or from what the were cut, but it sounds as if high resolution digital files were used. Whatever the source, highly recommended for music, for sound, for packaging and for pressing quality!