Pat Metheny Trio/Quartet

“An excess of talent on stage” were the words ringing in my head (or was that my ears ringing?) as I left the concert at Page Auditorium, Duke University last night. Made me want to put together a lecture for my students on the importance of not letting your talents get in the way of the music. Pat Metheny, standing inside a ring of amplifiers, is clearly a man in love with his sound. And he makes wonderful sounds and so many of them. His technique is awesome and even overwhelming. And his volume is – well – high. After being totally amazed by his sheer talent for the first few tunes I was ready to sit back and close my eyes and just enjoy some good music but it almost never got to that point. There were some golden moments but this concert was mostly about Pat, loud and clear. Bassist Christian McBride is a powerful and very musical player but most of what he played was drowned out by the guitar sound. His first solos of the evening were very lyrical but as the volume increased during the evening he appeared to adapt the classic bassist “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude and cranked out impressive “power” solos – overwhelming in their virtuosity but lacking subtlety. His look late in the evening pretty much said “I know I’m doing my job here and doing it well. Too bad no one can hear me.” Drummer Antonio Sanchez is the perfect match for Metheny – a “wall of sound” drummer. He was a joy to watch and hear – a person who has just the right sound and complex rhythm for every occasion. I often wished for more space in his accompaniments though there was only one tune where that would have been appropriate – a ballad where he kept up constant cymbal rolls throughout. Just a little space would have been nice. But his were the finest solos of the evening – much drama, humor, dynamics, and incredible phrasing on top of highly virtuostic playing. The drum solos were also where some of the most interesting ensemble playing came in. Metheny and McBride punctuated the drum solos with subtle but complex lines and punches that really highlighted the group’s tightness and made it more like chamber music. Tenor saxophonist David Sanchez joined the group late in the evening and his first piece – a duet with Metheny that sounded like a Jobim tune – was the most beautiful moment of the whole evening. This was the sparseness and beauty and soulfulness I had been wanting to hear all night. Metheny’s playing was more like his playing with bassist Charlie Haden on Beyond The Missouri Sky and David Sanchez had that same simple, lyrical, and heart wrenching approach that Haden has. It was a bittersweet moment and got me through the rest of the evening which was basically “lets crank up the guitar!!!”.