Despite his eclecticism and frequent experimentation, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny has a sound that's instantly recognizable: deep lyricism in his guitar work, an abiding melodicism in the most complex and avant-garde of his compositions, and a fundamental ebb and flow as he explores harmonic ideas with tendrils of bop and fusion. This solo performance follows the release of Orchestrion (Nonesuch), a solo record in name only. As he does in concert, Metheny improvises on his electric guitar over compositions played by dozens of instruments mechanically controlled by a system of pneumatics and solenoids, like an elaborate player piano. It's a considerably more sophisticated version of the original orchestrions, which date to the early 20th century. Metheny's modern version controls pianos, marimbas, "guitarbots," a myriad of percussion devices, basses, and even tuned bottles. The result is a perhaps surprisingly organic, even lush sound that isn't at all mechanical, although the emotional heart of the music is clearly Metheny's guitar. Each of the five lengthy pieces on the album traverses varied musical terrain that's at once familiar and exhilarating, spinning out new ideas in a thoroughly engaging context, with Metheny in the role of back-to-the-future mad scientist. (Photo by Jimmy Katz)
Sun., May 9, 7:30 p.m., 2010
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