PAT METHENY TRIO
I feel a little foolish arguing that guitarist Pat Metheny deserves a place among the great mainstream jazz soloists--not because he doesn't, but because I thought he'd made it clear himself. Metheny has proved his case every few years for the last two decades: on 80/81, with frontline tenor men Michael Brecker and Dewey Redman; on the 1984 trio album Rejoicing, with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins; on 1990's splendid Question and Answer, featuring Dave Holland and Roy Haynes; and as a sideman on albums by Brecker, McCoy Tyner, and Dave Liebman as well as Gary Burton's recent Grammy winner, Like Minds (Concord), where his lapidary solos all but steal the show from Burton and Chick Corea. Metheny's more pastoral melodies build on Miles Davis's long lines, and his harmonic leapfrogging represents a mature resolution of issues raised by Davis, Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane in the 60s. Nonetheless, plenty of serious listeners have been so blinded by his popular success--his forays into "contemporary" jazz, his arena shows--that they can't appreciate him as a pure improviser; to them I heartily recommend these concerts and the new album they support, Trio 99-->00 (Warner Brothers). On Metheny's shuffle-samba remake of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," the relaxed tempo allows him to highlight the song's taut melodic line, usually overlooked in favor of its bumper-car chord scheme, and he transforms his own "Lone Jack" from its original 1978 country-fusion version into a potential jazz standard for the new century, with a new and radiant solo. Here and on the album he's accompanied by bassist Larry Grenadier of Brad Mehldau's groups and drummer Bill Stewart, who's widely traveled but best known for his tenure with John Scofield. Both are younger than Metheny, making this the first time he's gone the mainstream route without well-known players a generation older--signifying, I think, his own acceptance of his stature. Friday, 8 and 11 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Deborah Feingold.