Release Date: Jan 26, 2010
Record label: Nonesuch
Does it work musically? Check the title track and “Expansion"; their knotty changes hint at Steve Reich's work for mallet instruments, but their deep, warm guitar grooves, intricate melodies, and Metheny’s love of rhythmic invention set them worlds apart. These tunes flow seamlessly even though they are compositionally ambitious, even by Metheny’s exacting standards. In places one can hear traces of Frank Zappa’s playful compositions in the keyboards and percussion instruments, too, but Metheny’s sense of swing is so pronounced it reflects pure modern jazz.
fThe intuitive jazz improviser, the pop-song tunesmith and the hardware geek have always lived side by side in Pat Metheny. His most commercially successful ventures have peppered Latin, rock and country music lyricism with adventurous soloing, across soundscapes coloured by digital delays, Synclavier synthesisers, 42-string Pikasso guitars and much more. The Orchestrion project (which comes to London for one gig on 10 February) is Metheny's most ambitious experiment.
Pat Metheny has earned the chance to play in nearly every existing context that a jazz musician could imagine—traditional quartets and trios, fusion bands, all-star groups, backing up Joni Mitchell, playing Ornette Coleman tunes, intimate duos, solo acoustic guitar, out-and-out noise rock. Metheny, in fact, has done all that and is now turning to previously nonexistent accompaniment. Orchestrion features Metheny’s fluid, nose-for-a-melody jazz guitar playing with a bubbling array of mallet and string instruments that are not being played by live musicians but by “solenoid switches and pneumatics”, to quote the promotional materials.
The Grammy winner drags a childhood obsession into the 21st century. Kathryn Shackleton 2010 Summers spent tinkering with his granddad’s player piano left US guitarist Pat Metheny fascinated with the mechanics of making music. With Orchestrion, the 17-times Grammy winner drags his childhood obsession into the 21st century. Orchestrions were mechanically-played mini-orchestras of the 1800s, often built around the player piano, and the album cover illustrates Metheny’s modern interpretation of the orchestrion.