Pat Metheny: Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV) | John Fordham's jazz album of the month

(BMG Modern Recordings)
Metheny’s new trio, with the formidable James Francies on piano and Marcus Gilmore on drums, provoke rapture in this live set

Playing and working with artists as different as Ornette Coleman, John Zorn, Joni Mitchell and David Bowie takes a fluid musical mind and a technique to match. Pat Metheny, the 67-year-old Missouri-born guitarist and composer, unveiled both back in 1976.

Metheny has long entertained a mainstream audience and often surprised an experimental one, written contemporary classical and movie music, lyrical songs sounding unjazzily like singles, and welcomed the provocations of gifted players much younger than him. From the latter impulse comes Side-Eye – a headlong reinvention of the popular 1960s Hammond organ/guitar/drums trio lineups pioneered by funky organists including Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, on a repertoire of new Metheny music and old hits.

Side-Eye NYC album artwork
Side-Eye NYC album artwork Photograph: PR

The album launches a 100-date world tour (the UK leg is at the Hammersmith Apollo on 12 June 2022). This is a 2019 live New York recording, juggling Metheny’s signature country-lilting lyricism, boppish swing, and some rousing rock-guitar muscle. On keys is the astonishing 26-year-old Houston-born jazz/R&B/hip-hop virtuoso James Francies (whose employers have ranged from saxophonist Chris Potter to Questlove), with the astutely powerful Marcus Gilmore on drums.

Two extended new compositions lay jangling, running-feet electronics under typically sensuous ballad motifs, or trumpet-like synth-guitar arias, bookending Metheny classics such as the dreamy Better Days Ahead (from 1989’s Letter from Home), a stunning Francies organ break of skid-turns, swirls and squeals on the percussively bluesy Timeline, and a shapely makeover of the leader’s 1976 debut tune Bright Size Life. But the most freely spontaneous playing boils up on Ornette Coleman’s irresistibly grooving Turnaround, to the rapturous roars of the New York crowd.

Also out this month

The Chick Corea Akoustic Band’s 2018 recording Live (Concord), released following the pianist’s untimely death in February, is an effervescent memorial – with Corea, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl joining originals and jazz evergreens, and the leader unfurling a beautiful solo-piano account of In a Sentimental Mood.

Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski and his fine long-running trio mix three mercurial ensemble improvisations with audacious mutations of classics by Carla Bley, JS Bach and the Doors for En Attendant (ECM).

Fay Claassen, the technically awesome Netherlands jazz singer, joins Belgian singer/songwriter David Linx and Cologne’s classy WDR Big Band on the almost all-original repertoire of And Still We Sing (Jazzline). Not exactly music that storms idiomatic barricades, but streamlined and updated big band and vocal jazz of the highest order.

• This article was amended on 14 September 2021. It previously incorrectly stated that Marcin Wasilewski covered the Iron Butterfly on the album En Attendant. This has been removed.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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