Pat Metheny Quartet epic and electric at Barbican

In these turbulent times small things can provide a reassuring sense of constancy. So Pat Metheny's arrival on stage clutching a 48-string guitar, in a striped t-shirt and jeans, with the smile of a man in his element etched on his face, relayed a sense of 'all is well with the world', a glowing feeling that persisted for the next two and a half hours and beyond.

This was the opening day of the EFG London Jazz Festival – an occasion that always means making a tough choice: the big opening Jazz Voice bash at the Royal Festival Hall, Manu Dibango at Ronnie's, Groove Warriors at the Bull's Head, Michael Janisch Band at Rich Mix, Tomasz Stanko at Cadogan Hall... But Metheny was the stellar billing: a multi-Grammy Award and Downbeat Poll winner whose gigs over the past 40 years have been marked not only by incredible musicianship, adventurous technology and great tunes but by a ferocious commitment to continued musical searching.

Joined for the current cycle of gigs by Brit Gwilym Simcock on piano, Malaysian-born, Australian-raised Linda May Han Oh on bass and 15-year Metheny associate Antonio Sánchez, from Mexico City on drums, Metheny's tune choices were similar to those of the Ronnie Scott's sets last year: lesser known PMG tracks, picks from his 1976 debut Bright Size Life, various Trio albums and the 1992 masterpiece Secret Story. Without a new album to promote this was Metheny enjoying himself with old tunes and finding fresh ways of playing them.

The quartet setting obviously meant we were not to be treated to the aural complexities of The Way Up – the last and perhaps greatest PMG recording, from 2005 – or the epic cuts from albums like First Circle or Imaginary Day to which pianist Lyle Mays made such a contribution. Instead, we had compositions that worked as standards: the poignant yet homely 'Unity Village'; an exciting 'Lone Jack' and rocky 'The Red One' (first recorded with John Scofield); a reggae-ish tune that allowed Simcock to stretch out before Pat mowed us down with soaring guitar synth pyrotechnics. A rapid 'What Do You Want?', from Trio 99/00, followed, Metheny flitting through the rhythm changes with his trademark luminously liquid flow.

'Better Days Ahead' from the 1989 Letter From Home album was an ideal choice for this setting and Simcock grinned and seemed to sing his opening phrase as he set himself up for his solo. Here, he was filling Lyle Mays' shoes with brilliance, joyfully shifting the rhythm and substituting the already complex chord sequence in waves of 10-finger sound, seemingly channelling Mays and McCoy Tyner in a lavish solo. At other times he played a subdued role; mindful perhaps of clashing with Metheny's voicings and embellishments.

Further highlights were the heart-wrenching 'Tell Her You Saw Me' from Secret Story, which showcased Metheny's astonishingly soft touch and ability to shape notes until they drop off the aural spectrum. 'Farmer's Trust' was similarly magical, on acoustic guitar. One of a series of duets saw bassist Oh take the Dave Holland role on 'Change of Heart': what a treat to hear a live version of this gorgeous dream of midwestern Americana from the Q&A album. Oh's sinuous playing complemented the tune so well but Metheny perhaps could have laid-off the backing chords a little more to allow the solo to come through.

If Oh's anchoring of the set was solid, discrete and tuneful, then Antonio Sánchez's contribution was explosive; at times sending shockwaves of awe through the auditorium at his speed and precision. The Migration band leader (current album Bad Hombre), and Birdland film score composer, has developed a sizeable a following in his own right and established himself among the world's finest drum virtuosos. He's also developed a telepathic understanding with Metheny, catching accents and using the full range of timbre that his superbly miked-up kit allowed, with echoes of Roy Haynes. Whereas some drum solos are the cue for a daydream, his were totally melodic and based on the song form – and demanded maximum focus from Oh and Metheny as to when to intrude. His duet was stratospheric: a garage-band rendition of 'Q&A' that finally entered sonic outer space.

What a shame that ticket prices for this kind of performance prevent many younger people attending; the quartet got more than one standing ovation but would have truly ignited the atmosphere at a less senior-oriented occasion, such as in a Love Supreme-style setting. Some audience members might have pined for the PMG 'hits' 'Are You Going With Me', 'Third Wind' and 'First Circle', but as with Steely Dan a fortnight ago at the 02, the group could have played a five-hour set and still not played everyone's favourites.

Finally, Metheny brought us back to the turbulent and disturbing present with a solo medley with 'This is Not America' at its heart (co-written with Mays and David Bowie). He hadn't said much on mic but this rendition was so emotionally charged that no words were needed. We knew what he meant.

– Adam McCulloch
– Photo by Tim Dickeson

Pat Metheny Quartet plays in Hull tonight, Dublin on Monday, Belfast Tuesday and Reykjavik, Iceland on Friday 17 November.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace album with 'L and K' video

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....
Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan Post-Jazz With Melancholic OTO Matinee

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....
Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fest

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....
Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays Tribute To Ed Blackwell At Brunswick

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....
Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG London Jazz Festival

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Komedia

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....
Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note and AEC heat up 37th Tampere Jazz Happening

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....
Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronnie's

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....
Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among the hair-raising turns at Berlin Fest humdinger

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....
A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin talks about the EFG London Jazz Festival

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....
Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Although several of his legendary predecessors met their maker while...

Read More.....
Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ronnie Scott’s

Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ro…

No one really noticed the quiet, contemplative figure who was...

Read More.....
Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new monthly music series

Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new …

With the first names still be announced for the 2019...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest Part VII

Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest…

The seventh installment of the genre-busting Emulsion Festival is set...

Read More.....
Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian Shaw among Parliamentary Jazz Award winners

Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian S…

The winners of the 14th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took...

Read More.....
Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective for Albany

Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective fo…

South London's longstanding music and arts venue, The Albany, has...

Read More.....
Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet Albums Back on Vinyl

Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr…

Long regarded as among the most notable and, in recent...

Read More.....
Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill at second Pizza Hang

Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill …

It's been something of an annus mirabilis for the vocalist...

Read More.....
Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The Necks and Ambrose Akinmusire make moves at Mondriaan Jazz Fest

Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The …

The second edition of the Mondriaan Jazz Festival takes place...

Read More.....
Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian Extravaganza

Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian E…

This exciting initiative taken by London-based vocalist Filomena Campus is...

Read More.....
UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Visions At Jazz In The Round's Emergence Fest

UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Vision…

Jazz In The Round promoters Chris Phillips and Jez Nelson...

Read More.....
Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light up Limerick Jazz Festival

Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light u…

This year's festival was perhaps short on surprises, compared to...

Read More.....
Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles At Brighton's Haunt

Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles A…

The bouncer outside is busy checking ID and handing out...

Read More.....
Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea Jazz Cruise

Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea J…

Most jazz cruises skim through moist Caribbean parts, proffering smooth...

Read More.....
New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking Sand’ video

New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking San…

Fast emerging New York group SUM bring together jazz, soul...

Read More.....
Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB autumn jazz line-up

Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB…

There's a busy jazz line-up at the Other Palace, PizzaExpress...

Read More.....
Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwoka At French Institute

Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwo…

The World Is Moving is an apt title for this...

Read More.....
Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The Empowered Musician Conference

Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The…

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Trust are holding a...

Read More.....
Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Chicagoan trombonist Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5/Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet/Globe Unity...

Read More.....
Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Runes’

Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Run…

Jazztronica trio Szun Waves have just released the video for...

Read More.....
Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New Life’

Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New L…

Guitarist Alex Munk returns in emphatic style with his hard-driving...

Read More.....
Elliot Galvin, Cherise Adams-Burnett and Fini Bearman for Elgar Room jazz fest nights

Elliot Galvin, Cherise Adams-Burnett and…

The Royal Albert Hall's venue-within-a-venue, The Elgar Room, has a...

Read More.....
EFG renews title sponsorship, Jazz Voice stars, Rymden and Jamie Baum for EFG London Jazz Fest

EFG renews title sponsorship, Jazz Voice…

The full programme for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo and Sheila Maurice-Grey vibe up The Vortex

Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo and Sheila M…

There's a plethora of essential jazz nights lined up at...

Read More.....
Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2018 Nominees Announced

Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2018 Nominees …

The nominations have been announced for this year's Parliamentary Jazz...

Read More.....
Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Video Premiere and Jazz Cafe Debut

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Video Premiere…

Polish bassist Wojtek Mazolewski brings his acclaimed Quintet to the...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@_helenakay KIM Trio launch Moon Palace album with 'L and K' video https://t.co/tiFmi2Kzbs https://t.co/aPEoYg6vrL
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Great happenings @iklectikartlab last night, with @HorseImprovClub. Sharon Gal exorcising her inner Cthulhu with… https://t.co/xJ4aHqA4Lb
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA