Another beautiful album from the best live band of the last 25 years. Yes!,the compositions may not be as profound as on the last PMG album 'Imaginary Day',and there is the feeling that you are on familiar territory (sort of a more mature 'Letter From Home') but this is one of the most beautiful albums they have made. The Ballad 'You' is as moving as 'Mas Alla' from 'First Circle', and 'Dream of the Return' from 'Letter from Home'. Pats and Lyle's playing and compositions are up to the usual standard and of the 3 new band members,Richard Bona's voice blends almost as well as Pedro Aznar's did.Also the trumpet playing is exquisite. As usual the recording quality is 1st rate and at 71 minutes its generously filled. If you are used to living with PMG subtlety and listening on long-warm summers nights then buy it..its perfect...you won't be disapointed.
It has taken me 18 months from buying this CD to reviewing it. I was quite pleased with it when I first bought it, but since then it has grown, grown, grown, grown until I now consider it without doubt the finest offering from Metheny's extensive catalogue. The greatest complimet I can pay this CD is to say that it easily matches the most sublime moments on classic albums such as Still Life Talking, Travels and The Road to You whilst capturing the listeners attention from first to last with a consistency not quite achieved since the excellent, though very different, PMG debut album way back in the '70s. It irritates me slightly when I read through reviews of Metheny albums because there is always someone who suggests it as ideal music to put on the stereo whilst enjoying a romantic meal. I find Metheny's music absolutely exhilarating, it seems degrading to regard it as high quality muzak. For me, it is the ideal companion to the exhilaration of travel. I first heard 'The Road to You' on a long bus journey into Patagonia on a clear, crisp winter's day, and listened to 'Speaking of Now' on a boat journey down the Mekong River in Laos. Pat Metheny's job is to create a soundtrack for his fan's lives, and he's bloody good at it.
This is an extremely rich and very well crafted CD. The compositions are superb; all the usual PMG features are there - the careful attention to harmonic development, catchy melodies which don't tire long-term, a great deal of rhythmic interest, excellent comping from Lyle, a well balanced sound, plenty of breath to sing along to, and solos which are stories in themselves. Add to all that what's new with this album: an extremely talented drummer allowing for grooves PMG have never been able to play before, a vocalist to excel like the sorely missed Pedro Aznar who featured all too briefly in PMG's discography, and a highly innovative trumpet player, and reap the complex crossrhythms, scintillating solos and new sounds. For some this album may seem backward compared to recent adventures such as Imaginary Day and We Live Here from which we have come to expect every PMG album to sound totally different from what's come before; on the surface, Speaking of Now sounds similar to older PMG albums like First Circle and Letter From Home. But that's just the surface, because beneath the calm cool familiar overall sound are all those new features, but you may have to listen real hard to get them. This is an album which requires 100% attention and maybe several undisturbed listening sessions to be understood and the music grasped. It only sounds like lift music if you turn it down real quiet on your hi-fi and have a conversation at the same time... but that's just not the point of what these amazingly talented musicians are doing. For anyone who's prepared to put in serious listening time, the rewards are great. This is an album you'll love forever. With every listen there will be new details in the solos, the harmonies, the melodies, the communication, for you to notice. You may never tire of this album...
Metheny and the guys sound like they used to do - and then again. It is classic Metheny with a new touch of elegance and charm. Like Secret Story meets Imaginary Day meets the upcoming spring. I love this record. It will make my life even better. Thank you Lord Metheny!!!!
Pat Metheny remains one of the world's most prolific and experimental jazz guitarists. He has worked with a number of quite varied and progressive jazz artists and isn't afraid to look at new styles and guitar tones and techniques. For me, some of these work well, and some leave me cold. Whenever he gets back with Lyle Mays and Steve Rodby however, the result is always accessible and of the highest quality. Speaking Of Now is no exception. The established tonal and production qualities are there (for which Steve Rodby should get great credit too), and the addition of Cuong Vu in particular gives another interesting dimension to a trademark album. I was lucky ehough to see PMG at The Royal Albert Hall this summer, and Cuong Vu's trumpet playing was outstanding. If you ever get the chance to see Pat live, take it. The group rarely tour and only seem to do one or two venues as part of a larger European Tour. There is enough to satisfy those who want more of the same from previous albums, but equally there are some wonderful performances from the new boys to set it apart. Richard Bona's vocals on "Another Life", "You" and "Afternoon" are beautifully crafted, and the trumpet playing throughout is haunting. Those who have any of Pat's other albums will not be disappointed,and if you feel like trying his material for the first time, it will be money well spent and the start of a wonderful adventure! Paul and Philippa
In my experience, loyal Metheny fans have two reactions to every new release- a) disappointment that it sounds just like all the other albums, and b) alarm that it sounds disconcertingly different. Actually they usually experience both of these together, as they always do sound more or less the same on the surface, and yet there is always something new going on. So on "Speaking of Now" we have all the usual repertoire of synthesised whistles, wordless vocalise and etch-a sketch synclavier guitar, but there's an airiness, an openess of texture that sets it apart from the dense technicolour cinemascope of "Imaginary Day"- with this album you can definitely sense a group of guys actually sat in a studio playing live. The influence of Metheny's recent work with his trio is also apparent- for one thing, he plays a lot more, over, under, around everything else that's going on- but he also leaves more space for new drummer Antonio Sanchez than usual, surely a reflection of his experience playing with the combustible Bill Stewart. On the down side, the tunes are less immediately hummable, sharing much of the cut' n' paste complexity of the last album; Lyle Mays gets more self effacing with every recording, and it would have been nice to have found more opportunities for Cuong Vu's trumpet and Richard Bona's sublime singing... but this is always Metheny's show, and in a few weeks we'll all love it just as much as we love all the others. Oh- and the cover's really dreadful- bring back Stefan Sagmeister.
In all honesty this album is exceptional quality and a thoroughly rewarding and uplifting listening pleasure. Pats music has often been compared to ideal elevator or supermarket music, but in there lies its beauty!, the music is stimulating and relaxing in the extreme. For those of you who want to impress a future date or just have a relaxing soundtrack to a cosy night in this cannot be recommended highly enough. Of course there is more to it than that. Pat has always selected the top musical performers in his chosen gendre and of course it shows in the quality of the material performed, many future reviewers may back me up on this or may not thats your bag and its free to review in which ever way you feel fit.My advice is consider it, let the great man relax and open up some of the most beautiful and rewarding soundscapes available in jazz. Chill and investigate other selections from one of todays most talented jazz musicians. I haven't reviewed any of the individual selections but "Proof" and "As it is" are lovely selections and the new members of the group apart from the core three members Mayes/Metheny and Rodby add to the overall ingredients in exciting fashion.