This is going to be up there amongst the best jazz CD's of 2012. Pat Metheny has always been an artist who has combined a catchy approach to music coupled with a degree of musical intelligence which, in my opinion, marks hims out as one of the finest jazz musicians of our time. Fans of his music will want to snap this offering up as it is pretty exceptional even for his own high standards.
In many respects this disc is a definition of where the contemporary jazz mainstream is today and features a quartet that includes saxophonist Chris Potter at his most Brecker-esque. On some tracks he picks up a soprano and a bass clarient and whilst I have heard him in more experimental form with the likes of Dave Douglas, he seems totally at home in this ensemble. As in the norm with recent Metheny discs, the drum chair is taken by the ever excellent and reliable Antonio Sanchez who lays down the solid rhythm which underpins some robust playing from Potter and Metheny. The band is rounded out by newcomer Ben Williams on bass who provides the kind of foundation you would expect from the likes of Christian McBride - a major new talent to jazz.
From the point of view of material, the record combines a good balance of offerings with "Roofdogs" being amongst my favourites. The band has quickly acquired it's own identity and with soloists of this calibre there is plenty to be getting the teeth into. In many ways, the sound recalls Michael Brecker's swanwong "Pilgrimage" albeit without a piano. However, the most fascinating track is "Signals" which features Metheny playing the orchestrion but which opens with 3 minutes of edge-of-the-seat free improvisation from the protagonists which is amongst some of the most compelling listening the guitarist has put down on record to my ears. The excitement at the resolution when the Morse code like theme comes in under Sanchez' odd-metre drum motif is electric and this track culminates in a style which is more redolent of the material played by PMG.
In many respects the names of the musicians on the album sleeve are sufficient to let you know that the music will be terrific but this disc would serve at a fantastic introduction to anyone wishing to sample how good jazz is in 2012. A Rolls Royce jazz ensemble.