on 9 February 2014
I’d been looking forward to this release for some time. It’s been 9 years since we heard Pat Metheny with a full group alongside him and while comparisons of this new constellation with the erstwhile Pat Metheny Group may be a bit unfair they’re simply unavoidable.
On the whole I think it’s a decent album. I can definitely appreciate the artistry that went into it. I’m just not moved by it though, not in the way past Metheny group albums have moved me. I’m not so sure it merits all the hype and breathless praise that seems to be whirling around on social media about it.
The first thing I noticed about the album was the way it sounds (obvs). I’m not a musician and I’m no expert on sound engineering but I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s down to the way it was mixed, presumably to give the recording a more ‘live’ feel.
It works and on the plus side, there’s a feeling of immediacy to the album. It literally sounds like the group is playing in my living room. On the downside though, the luxuriance and diversity of the soundscapes provided to us by previous recordings are not present here. The sound also gets a bit messy in places. Unlike with the PMG where I would always get the sense that, even in improvised parts, every single note played was carefully placed where it was placed for a reason, I don’t always get that sense with this group.
Don’t get me wrong; these are all excellent musicians. Sanchez is literally jaw-dropping and I’m a huge fan of Chris Potter. But does the whole add up to more than the sum of its parts? Do they actually make a cohesive unit? Do they have real chemistry together? I’m not so sure. At times I can’t make out whether I’m listening to a Chris Potter album or a Pat Metheny one. With all due respect to Potter, is that good?
Overall though, for me, the crucial element of the main Metheny oeuvre that’s very conspicuous in its absence here is Lyle Mays. As another reviewer on Amazon put it: “In no small way Lyle made the Group what it was; he was the catalyst for what allowed PMG to be at once so accessible and yet so ethereal. Lyle was Pat's collaborator in chief, the heart that complemented Pat's heady arrangements, the purveyor of unexpected twists and turns, a gentle eloquent tour-de-force in his own right, and the lead sheet for Pat's best peregrinations as a soloist.”
I couldn't agree more.
I don’t know what the situation is between Metheny and Mays and I wouldn’t dare to speculate, but I hope with all my heart that it’s not terminal. Lyle is Pat's musical soul-mate. As great as Pat is on his own or with other musicians - and he is great indeed - in my humble opinion, he is at his greatest when he’s with Lyle. 2005's "The Way Up" is still one of my favourite albums ever.
I wasn’t particularly enchanted by the Unity Band when I first heard it. A ground-breaking idea, sure, but I found it too sonically threadbare and lacking of any heart. The Unity Group definitely takes things up a notch - vocalist & multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi is a most welcome addition - but for me, it just doesn’t quite hit the spot. In my substantial catalogue of Metheny albums it rates nowhere near the top.
Favourite songs: "Sign Of The Season", an epic, hypnotic 10 min delight; the beautiful almost mournful ballad "Born" and "We Go On".
on 17 April 2014
Methenys work has matured in its sophistication and subtlety over the years. Be in no doubt that this is not an immediately involving listen, but by the forth or fith listen a work of great quality reveals itself. There are no crowd pleasing tunes and few straight forward time signatures but this is a great CD and one of Methenys best.
I can't see Metheny reuniting the old group now he has this band. He's always been about exploration and progress and although on first listen this sounds like old ground, the devil is in the detail. There is so much music here, so much invention and lateral thinking, these compositions weren't written overnight and the band must have rehearsed for weeks before the recording dates.
Buy this cd but don't expect immediate gratification. Stick with it. It's well worth it.
on 14 June 2014
Was Pat talking about a different album when he expressed a desire to explore "lush and dense" textures as in his more more distant discography (presumably referring to the Pat Metheny Group) and wasn't that what the addition of a multi-instrumentalist to the Unity Group was for ? A more colourful CD cover aside, "Kin" is still a follow-up to the Unity Group album with more bland material and a sonic landscape dominated, more than the former, by a brilliant saxophonist rather than the guitarist himself. Let's not forget what great composers Metheny-and-Mays were; the Beatles of the jazz world. Perhaps Pat is stock-piling melodies in a locker somewhere for a PMG reunion one day. As it is, "The Way Up" feels like a green planet we used to live on once.
on 16 February 2014
Every record Metheny puts out is different and it takes time to absorb what he has put in front of us rather than measuring the work against your expectations as a fan and listener. Expectations were very high for what seemed like would be his most major release and tour since The Way Up.
The man is of course a wonderful composer, with tracks like Are You Going With Me and So May It Secretly Begin in his back catalogue, and even the first Unity Band recording having several great compositions, to name just one, the opening track New Year.
I don't feel the tracks on this record will ever feature on a list of his greatest compositions (the gospel-like 'Born' being the strongest candidate), they work better as loose frameworks from which a group of incredibly talented musicians break out for extended solos which are, in turn, lyrical, reflective, incendiary and hard-swinging.
Chris Potter is on fire throughout as you would expect from his last outing with the Unity Band. I would single out his hook-filled, gutsy solo on track 2 as a highlight.
Ben Williams comes to the fore on several occasions, most remarkably on the (six string?) electric bass solo on the first track, which sounds like he has completely absorbed Metheny's own musicality. But he also features on acoustic bass, for example in the beautiful, reflective section with the piano on track 4.
Giulio Carmassi mostly provides extra texture. There is only one point where the vocals really come to the fore - at the end of the first track - but this is a wonderful and moving climax to a track that has already featured extended solos from Metheny, Williams and Potter, and so Carmassi caps what could well be the highlight of the whole record.
Antonio Sanchez is as busy, inventive, and driving as ever.
Metheny himself, as expected, provides some wonderful soloing, whether it be the hard swinging electric solo on track 2 or the extended synth solo on track 5, which initially sounds like nothing he hasn't played before, but then progresses to something special and leads into another great break from Potter. Maybe this record isn't the greatest ever showcase of Metheny's talents, he almost seems a little reserved, as though he wants to give his stellar bandmates a chance to shine. But then we are so continually spoiled for examples of his incredible playing, whether it be his exhilarating electric guitar soloing on last year's Tap, or his beautiful acoustic playing with Charlie Haden on the soundtrack of the current film release Living is Easy With Eyes Closed.
This band is going to be amazing live! But, if you're one of those who is going to stand there and moan that Lyle Mays and Pedro Aznar should be on stage with him, or leave to catch the last tube rather than calling for another encore from this most generous of performers, then please don't bother coming. You'll only spoil it for the rest of us who are in thrall with every twist and turn in this man's amazing career.
Five UNIFYING Stars! Multiple Grammy-winning and Hall of Fame guitarist/leader Pat Metheny's 'Unity Band' was a great group where Metheny surrounded himself with a wonderful trio of inspirational young musicians, produced a marvelous Grammy-winning record, and stormed the clubs of the world on a 100+ date tour to show them off. He has brought them back and upped the ante by adding one multi-instrumentalist who can 'shape shift' between strings, brass, reeds, keyboards and vocals adding a new sonic palette to the already wide Metheny mix (especially when you add in the electronic Orchestrion). This recording is literally taking the group `back to the future' of Metheny's fusion days, but it's all new and inspiring to the group members, so it's very fresh sounding and exciting. Seemingly wrapped around a unifying thematic subjective `the family of man', many 'world music' influences abound in every nook and cranny of this recording. Back are polyrhythmic master drummer Antonio Sanchez, Chris Potter and his arsenal of tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet, upright and electric bass star Ben Williams' solid bottom underpinnings, and the new member Giulio Carmassi, who fits nicely into the group like the 5th finger in a glove. Metheny has bravely stated he is after a unifying sound that encapsulates all of his music going back as far as his "Song X" Ornette Coleman days and moving forward through his fusion days. It's risky, but he has for the most part achieved that lofty goal with the release of "Kin (<-->)", although at times frankly it's not easy guessing who is playing what instrument, outside of the apparent guitar, sax, bass, and drum parts. And Carmassi's background piano `comping' is indeed a welcome new sound for this group.
The 'best of the best', begins with the exciting 15 minute "On Day One", where right out of the shute we hear the sound of fluttering piano notes floating over the bass and drum, announcing the group's new member, and surging into a six-note staccato main theme that sets up a wild Potter tenor sax solo, some bracing Metheny guitar revelations, and Williams' heady interweaving solo (great "Young at Heart" quote). The beautiful "Rise Up" begins with flamenco guitar and hand clapping that kicks into a new gear for the solos, with a blazing Metheny solo and Potter on soprano sax for the theme and tenor sax for a laid back then intense tenor sax accounting. "Adagia" is a nice, short, but memorable unison guitar-sax themed song. "Kin (<-->)" has a languid theme over Sanchez' urgent, accented rhythmic underpinning that is very effective, especially behind Carmassi's synth solo, and with Potter's tenor sax and Williams arco bass trading solos. "Born" is a bluesy R&B-influenced ballad that expands the album's repertoire away from fusion. "Genealogy" is a direct nod to Ornetter and almost an introduction to a R&B-flavored "We Go On" with a great funky Potter solo. "Kqu" has a loping beat for Metheny's nice blues licks. In all, new guy Carmassi contributes excellent solos, nice background shadings, and is very empathetically unobtrusive in general. A great beginning to a new exciting Pat Metheny group that comes full circle with his `fusion' musical past. My Highest Recommendation. Five EXCELLENT Stars! (9 tracks;Time-70:17)
on 2 April 2014
It may not be the best Metheny but this is still a high class jazz record. The band is amazing and sincerely I was expecting something more after the the heart breaking - mind blowing release of 2012 (UNITY BAND). We are quite far from that level and honestly the first time I listen to this album I thought "Is that it?", but I have faith in all the musicians I am listening since many years, so despite my initial feeling I kept playing this record a lot. A week later the whole concept of KIN (<->) (what a title btw!) appeared much more different, music started to make more sense and the connections between instruments started to be much more clear. Chris Potter. What to say about this guy? He's probably one of the best saxophone players alive right now and is a big, big part of this album. I've received this album only few weeks ago since I've ordered the vinyl edition and it took ages to get released. I was pleased to find a CD version of the album inside to put it in the car. The recording quality is very good and I am quite pleased with this new work of the Unity Band. Give few more listen to this record, get into it, it's a classy production, I hope the band will come to play live in Netherland sometimes, I am sure watch them live it's the real deal!
on 14 March 2014
Brilliant Magnificent what more can be said. Since the release of "The Way Up" in 2005 ( which I personally regard as one of the best PMG releases) I have loyally followed the maestro's releases. In my opinion nothing released since 2005 quite matched the the inspiration of the 1990's and the early 2000's. There was an ingredient missing in the music being released. To me that ingredient was Lyle Mays. I longed for another Metheny/Mays release, even wrote to Nonesuch begging them to suggest this to the duo but to no avail.
And then two releases by the newly formed Unity Band. The first release showed a lot of promise but KIN just did it for me. Is this the new PMG reborn. This album reinstates my confidence in Metheny and I am pretty sure will win the next grammy for the band. But is this the end of PMG, has Lyle Mays really been left in the cold after more than twenty years of brilliant Collaboration.........
on 20 August 2014
IM SO PLEASED TO HEAR THIS ALBUM-IT FOLLOWS ON FROM THE GREAT PAT METHENY BAND ALBUMS OF 6 OR SO YEARS AGO, SHAME THE MASTERING IS A LITTLE BIT WOOLY AND THE CYMBALS OVERBEARINGLY LOUD IN PLACES,AND METHENY IS A BIT LOW AND MUFFLED IN THE MIX-OTHER THAN THIS,...PERFECT ! JUST HAVE TO TURN THE TREBLE UP.
on 13 February 2015
Moving towards to group sound. the more complex pieces have moments of being tedious and uncomfortable. There is some indulgent & self absorption within the over complex structures. The simpler pieces have more milage.
on 8 August 2014
An old Metheny, a new look. Despite the fact that 'Orchestrion' had the signature of a master, many have been waiting a long time for such an album, and their patience has been rewarded, . Back to the roots with a fresh and new approach and a new five-member band, including: the old faithful Antonio Sanchez on drums and Steve Rodby as associate producer; the extremely talented Chris Potter as draft horse on sax, clarinet and flute; the indispensable musical centipede Giulio Carmassi, reponsible for piano, trumpet, trombone, French horn, cello, vibes etc. etc.; and Ben williams on the basses. Still missing Lyle Mays but enjoy! Lyrical & timeless music is back!