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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day Trip (Nonesuch, 2008)

For a split second during Pat Metheny's amazing, intimate, ultimate, spectacular, superb, outstanding rendition of "So May It Secretly Begin" at Yoshi's in San Francisco on February 22nd, 2008, I thought he should, and would, keep playing with drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Christian McBride for the rest of his career. Trios become him, and the phrase Pat Metheny Trio should be heard for a long time from now on.

Pat's been touring with these two awesome musicians for a few years already, and he's been playing with Sanchez in the Pat Metheny Group, a combo founded in 1977 with skinny New-Age genious Lyle Mays on keyboards and included, in several incarnations, musicians like Pedro Aznar on vocals and percussion, and Mark Egan on bass. Metheny and modern jazz are two names that can't be separated. He might have invented the smooth jazz genre without even knowing it in 1978 with the self-titled debut LP of the PMG and at this moment, while you're reading this, Pat is either playing a live venue or recording something with someone. He's one of the most prolific jazz artists of the last 30 years and he's been appreciated a lot by the Grammys, having won sixteen so far. Bravo for Pat.

In 2003, Pat restarted his trio format hiring two incredible jazz musicians whose upbringing was based in R&B and soul. Sanchez, from Mexico, provides so much punch with the snares, toms and cymbals he actually boosts up the Metheny sound making it more danceable and less skippable in your media player. McBride is so loud and clear in his upstanding bass playing he shines over Pat more than once, and Pat likes it because he loves collaboration. McBride has amazing bass chops that also founded a solid solo career, so he's happy riding the Metheny wave even if he doesn't need it. He just loves the trio format as much as Pat does. Together they're dynamyte in the jazz circles and one of the hottest tickets where jazz festivals are happening.

They've been touring all over the world and their bootlegs can be found by the dozens at, hey, Pat was clearly excited about making a studio album with a trio the same way he did 32 years ago on his debut, Bright Size Life (ECM, 1976), with Jaco Pastorius and Bob Moses. After three years of touring with McBride and Sanchez, it was time to put on tape the songs they were introducing every day to new audiences, in a New York recording studio. It was time to record great stuff like "Son Of Thirteen."

Day Trip was recorded in one day and mixed and sequenced to make a coherent album. Nobody's mentioned it, but we suppose it is a concept record about the dark ages of travelling with fear and the economic and social crisis the U.S. is living under the Bush regime. There's a huge, desolate question on the guitar phrasing of "Is this America? (Katrina 2005)" and this might be the centerpoint of the album. The album cover shows the diversity of a country still discovering itself by trial and error, which is what Pat has been doing but scoring more times than failing.

The funky syncopated loops of "When We Were Free" (a 1996 song from the Pat Metheny Group's "Quartet" album) put the trio on the spot, right on front of your speakers and your head. The toms of Sanchez hit you hard and Metheny's "raging elephant" sounds lively and honest, almost making a political statement. "Calvin's Keys" is a boogie tribute to John Scofield, Wes Montgomery and, most important of all, the title person, axe man Calvin Keys, who has been one of Pat's most clear influences in his picking.

I'm sure Pat is considering touring with these guys for a while, and we hope he goes for it. The Pat Metheny Group might not be over yet, though. Lyle Mays and bass player Steve Rodby might be around the corner -maybe next year- to put up another PMG masterpiece. But for now, we're hell of happy with the Pat Metheny Trio.