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Pat Metheny - 80/81 CD (album) cover

80/81

Pat Metheny

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.21 | 25 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I'm finding out that Pat Metheny wears a lot of hats. Some are impressive, some are not. The same guy who created the intriguing "As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls" album with the talented Lyle Mays also produced the dull, pedantic "First Circle" disc with his eponymous group that bored me no end. Therefore, it's dawning on me that listening to one of his records for the first time is akin to indulging in a brown morsel from one of Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. "80/81" doesn't lie somewhere in between those two aforementioned albums, either. It's more like another point on a triangle, distinct and equally distant from the other terminals in most respects. While I can't substantiate my suspicions with solid fact I surmise that Pat was presented with an opportunity to enter into the studio with four respected jazz masters and he wisely seized the moment without giving it a second thought. I mean, how often does one have the chance to be in sessions with Charlie Haden on double bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums and both Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone? I have no doubt that Metheny pinched himself and then plunged ahead with the project knowing that even if the result wasn't exactly a masterpiece of jazz he'd have and be able to learn from an experience never to be repeated in his lifetime.

The first cut is the almost 21-minute "Two Folk Songs (1st, 2nd)." Beginning with Metheny's prominent, aggressively-strummed acoustic guitar, Brecker breaks the ice by playing an optimistic melody line that gives you the false notion this is to be some kind of light, contemporary jazz piece. Soon the atmosphere gets altered as the quartet settles into a spirited jam where the saxophone gets unruly and abstract for several minutes, followed by the rhythm section of Charlie and Jack stepping forward to restore some order and to draw Michael back to the original theme. However, it ain't long till more noisy mayhem ensues. DeJohnette eventually turns in an entertaining drum solo, leading to a much more ethereal, quiet setting where Haden vamps unaccompanied on what sounds like an old gospel song till Jack eases back in and Pat guides them all to the finale with some beautiful acoustic guitar. Overall the number has a few moments that I like but more often than not it goes to places that unnerve me and make me want it to be over sooner than later. "Every Day (I Thank You)" follows, a slow, jazzy ballad featuring a dreamy mix of guitar and saxophone backed by the tactful rhythm section strolling behind. The tune owns a gorgeous ambience and a very inventive arrangement that'll hold your attention. Brecker really shines throughout this cut and Metheny further relaxes the climate with an acoustic guitar ride soothing as a mental massage. They close this long piece with a reprise of the initial melody and a reinforcement of the serene mood it implants in your psyche.

Next is "Goin' Ahead," a much shorter track where Pat entrances all by his lonesome on acoustic guitar. Here his performance figuratively glows due to his flawless technique and confident execution. On "80/81" an underlying peppier pace drives this scat-like number nimbly as Dewey Redman finally joins the festivities. Metheny switches over to his fat electric and proceeds to dazzle with his dexterity, flying like a hawk over the frets while DeJohnette does a fine job of anticipating and accenting his every nuance. Pat then backs out and lets the other four cruise along uninhibited until they finish the song with the saxes and guitar playing the tune's sprightly theme in tandem. "The Bat" has a much slower aura surrounding it. In the early going Metheny and Haden carry the load over a somewhat complex yet melodic structure and then Charlie breaks off on his own for an upright bass ride consisting of instinctive feel at its finest. Dewey and Jack fall in at the three quarter mark and proceed to delicately build upon the song's focused peacefulness. For their cover of Ornette Coleman's "Turn Around" Charlie instigates a sly, jazzy shuffle that seems to bring out the best in DeJohnette's drumming. Leaving the sax players out, Pat glides and amazes via his unique style that contains very little repetition, if any. The rhythm section is incredibly tight as if of one single mind, especially during their shared moment in the spotlight.

The copy I have is the single CD edition so there's a whole 'nother side of what was included on the double LP set that I have yet to hear (and most likely never will). Nonetheless, this album, with the exception of the volatile first cut, makes for stimulating listening as it ventures into the softer side of jazz/rock fusion. For some the epic "Two Folk Songs" may be the portion of the record they're most attracted to so there's no way that I'd dare knock or impugn its integrity just because I don't cotton to its wild side. I honor and subscribe to the "different strokes for different folks" rule and that certainly applies in this case. 3.4 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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