Pat Metheny's prolific nature is only matched by his chameleon-like capacity for fitting into any musical situation while remaining true to his basic identity. From the more commercial leanings of his Metheny Group projects to mainstream jazz affairs, such as a recent duo recording with Jim Hall, Metheny cuts through this variegated swath of musical styles as if they were all from the same piece of cloth. All of this is to suggest that Metheny's latest offering, while somewhat of a departure from the more jazz-oriented side of things, is just another example of his far-reaching interests and proclivity for challenging himself.
Based on a story by Jane Hamilton that is set in the rural midwest, Metheny was an obvious choice for supplying the soundtrack for A MAP OF THE WORLD. Utilizing his acoustic guitar, the acoustic bass of Steve Rodby, and the lush underpinnings of a symphony orchestra, he paints quiet images that are almost folksy in nature, much in the same manner as his early solo album, NEW CHAUTAUQUA. This is delicate and introspective music which only occasionally rises above a roar (such as the odd beat-box insert on "Sunday" that comes as a total surprise) but is often compelling in its beauty.
In addition to featuring all of the music that was used in the film, with each cut averaging about two minutes apiece, there is an additional twenty or so minutes of material that was based on the core motifs used elsewhere. So in the final analysis, while the success of these performances apart from the film is wholly apparent, Metheny's jazz audience might find the overall atmosphere a bit subdued and the pieces too brief for any kind of development.