Pat Metheny: From This Place
Pat Metheny describes From This Place as a recording “I’ve been waiting to make my whole life” and “a kind of musical culmination.” Words of such magnitude plant oversized expectations in a listener, and the resulting music had better work around the clock to live up to the setup. To get there, Metheny utilizes his longtime drummer Antonio Sanchez for the project, and fills out the soundstage with newcomers: the British pianist Gwilym Simcock and the extraordinary bassist Linda May Han Oh. The quartet was well road-tested by the time they entered the studio, and had developed a firm bond—with the Hollywood Studio Symphony (conducted by Joel McNeely) and a few guest players (vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello, harmonica whiz Gregoire Maret and percussion Luis Conte) adding their colorings, the troupe set out to give voice to Metheny’s first collection of new original material since 2014’s Kin. And yes, it’s a stunner: The grandeur provided by the orchestra serves both to ornament and expand upon the splendor that’s built into these tunes by their composer, but never does From This Place feel ponderous or flamboyant. The intention behind “America Undefined,” the lead track, can be taken however the listener wishes, or it can be soaked up sans fuss, a ready reminder that Metheny remains one of the most innovative and industrious guitarists and composers in the jazz orbit. And tracks like the uplifting “Same River,” the title track and the towering, sumptuous “Sixty-Six” need serve as nothing more than particularly opulent ambient music or nothing less than a lure that demands total sensual entanglement.