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METHENY'S NEW UNITY GROUP: BACK TO A BRAVE NEW FUTURE!
on 4 February 2014
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)