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Pat Metheny - 80/81 CD (album) cover

80/81

Pat Metheny

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Andy Webb
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3 stars If I could recreate sax solos in text, I so would.

NOTE: I am reviewing this from the single CD version, so Open and Pretty Scattered are omitted.

Pat Metheny, a fantastic jazz guitarist, has done it again. 80/81 is a fantastic double album. It is definitely one of my favorite folk-jazz crossovers, with fantastic musicianship all across the board from all the collaborators. Jazz improvisations are sprinkled here and there, which a nice color to the album. It may not be Genesis and it may not e Miles Davis, but it's still great.

Two Folk Songs, the two-track-but-really-one song, (on my version the two songs are combined), is a fantastic, you guessed it, folk song. The melodies are beautiful. Listening to them makes me feel like I'm flying high above the Great Plains, lead by fantastic saxophone soloing and other improv beauty. Although at some points the improv gets a little discordant, the track itself is beautiful. And, being a drummer, I love the drum solo in the middle of the track. Not only is it solely drums, the solo is rhythmically magnificent. The guitar solo in the middle of part 2 is fantastic. The jazz chords are wonderfully crafted to sound great. Short little bass solos with that organic acoustic sound are just amazing. Two Folk Songs: setting this record off on the very right foot!

Everyday I Thank You breaks away from the folkiness of the last track and brings the album into the smooth jazz territory. The sax solo in the intro just reminds me of a 90s sitcom love scene in a smoky bar. But after the dreamy solo, the rhythm and guitar pick up the song and take it to new heights. The amazing skill brought to the table by all the musicians really help this song along; just by playing a few chords in the right way, Metheny makes this song memorable. The sax solo might drag, but it still is a good song.

Goin' Ahead is a much more melancholy song, with soft melody and beautiful soloing. Metheny is really goin' ahead making feel great about life!

The title track really picks up the tempo for a speedy jazz track with synchronized sax and guitar soloing. The entire track is mostly a switch off solo based off that synchronized "head" section between Metheny and sax player Michael Brecker. It's a fun fusion track, with some speedy and sometimes odd solo sections.

The Bat is another slow melodic smooth jazz song. This features more soloing between guitar and sax. It's nice, but very similar to the other slower switch off solo tracks.

Turnaround is a fun track, opened by a nice bassline by Charlie Haden. A guitar solo is based off of the bassline. It speeds up at times, but is still mainly a switch off solo track, but this time between guitar and bass. It's still a great though.

ALBUM OVERALL: This album has it's ups and downs. Two Folk Songs is so amazing, however, that it's hard to say very many bad things about the album. Every Day I Thank You and The Bat are just slow smooth jazz songs and are essentially the same thing. 80/81 and Turnaround are also very similar, both sped up jazz improv tracks. The best songs on the album are Two Folk Songs and Goin' Ahead, mainly because they are different from the rest and the most creative. Sadly, I haven't heard the two tracks omitted from the single CD version, so I can't comment on them. With the inclusion of Two Folk Songs, the rating of the album is certainly elevated. Bravo to Metheny for that fantastic composition. 3+ stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#306782)
Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
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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.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#623123)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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