Since 1998, the contrast between Pat Metheny's releases has been dramatic, and has re-introduced Metheny's seemingly endless palette of sounds and settings to both his existing fanbase, and to flocks of new listeners. Perhaps the most significant was the jump between his '98 Grammy-winner (and Warner Bros. debut) Imaginary Day, (representing the more contemporary and produced mix of jazz, world and electronic elements which has represented a wide range of Metheny's catalog since the late 80's) and his turn-of-the-millenium release, Trio 99>00, in which Metheny chose to scale down to an absolute, raw, trio formation with the accompaniment of ubiquitous drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Larry Grenadier.
The stir it caused was double positive: Highly reminiscent of his earliest ECM releases, it was candy for Metheny fans since the early days who had been begging for a rekindling of the hot trio sessions which once featured the likes of Bob Moses and Jaco Pastorius. Second, it introduced latecomers to a raw, edgier Metheny setting, the kind more suited to a cramped after-hours jazz club, pulling away the synths and electronics in favor of simple, powerhouse interaction between 3 incredible players.
The product of the supporting tour was no less spectacular, and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance of selections from the forthcoming 2-CD Release. Taped live from shows in Japan, Europe and US, you can feel the energy in the room, and the beauty of hearing Bright Size Life through the eyes (and hands) of this trio a quarter century after its initial release was proof that great music in the hands of great musicians becomes instantly timeless. The mix of selections covered a wide range of Metheny's catalog, including BSL, Offramp, Question and Answer, and others. Metheny takes the opportunity to revisit past material with a new fire, fueled by the subtle yet incredibly dynamic styles of Stewart and Grenadier, who much like their noted predecessors are shining parts of the incredibly solid whole.
Features on the advance also included James, Into The Dream (enter the 42-string pikasso guitar that Metheny has wowed audiences with for several years now), The Bat and Question and Answer.
The performances are masterful, the material is familiar yet feels brand new upon first listen, and the raw energy can only be surpassed by actual having been there. Look for Trio > LIVE this November as a must-have, not just for collection, but for yet another fresh listening experience that Metheny never fails to provide time and time again.