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Pat Metheny - Orchestrion CD (album) cover


Pat Metheny

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I am listening now very fresh Pat Metheny album, released just a week ago. And I am expecting something special. Not because I think Pat is very experimental musician in the sense of music - during few decades I learned he is great soft guitar player, often on smooth jazz border.

The reason is this new his album is "real" solo album, where Pat plays all instruments himself. And there are many of them - all acoustic (but his guitar). But most interesting moment is that the album is not recorded as product of many overlays, pre-recorded different instruments sounds, mixed in one just in studio. No, this one is recorded using all the studio as instrument ( not very innovative idea, by the way). Pat uses "Orchestrionics" - a method of developing ensemble-oriented music using acoustic and acoustoelectric musical instruments that are mechanically controlled in a variety of ways, using solenoids and pneumatics. On top of these layers of acoustic sound, he adds electric guitar playing as an improvised component. And even more - starting from today Pat plays all this music live on big European live tour!

But speaking about all this attractions, let return back to music. Even if the way it was produced is not very usual, most important is a final product. And there are less unexpected things I can mention. In fact , all five compositions are competent contemporary jazz, soft, melodic, tasteful, with excellent electric Pat guitar on the top. But as usual very safe. Intelligent and pleasant listening. One of strong Pat's works. But no way revolution. I believe that Pat is very intrigued by the way he is playing his new music, and it will be really interesting to see/hear him playing live using all this devices. But in fact musical result is more or less similar to his previous works. Just another good album for quality contemporary jazz lovers.

Report this review (#264326)
Posted Friday, February 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is definitely a solo album where Pat Metheny plays everything on it from keyboards to percussion and guitar.. Basically, references point to Chicago's Tortoise(without the dub...think TnT), Mike Oldfield's Orchestral period(Incantations), Pierre Moerlin's Gong and Wes Montgomery. Jazzy and orchestral in scope. Fans of Pierre Moerlin's Gong during the period of _Time Is The Key_ and _ Leave It Open_ would find this very appealing. No stellar tracks, really, Everything is solid. A little Zappaesque in parts. This could be Pat Metheny's AMAROK, but don't expect any toothbrushes. It harkens back to his period of '78 to '82 on ECM. (Pat Metheny Group, As Falls Wichita, Offramp). No synth-guitar(as far as I can tell). Recommended.
Report this review (#264953)
Posted Monday, February 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Exceptionally well played, but missing surprises.

Pat Metheny´s solo album Orchestrion evokes mixed feelings. On the one hand the concept of orchestrion as an instrument really supports and explains the way many instruments and musical arrangements on the album are played - for example percussions throughout the album (sometimes using long uniform patterns) and other instruments, especially in the first three tracks ´Orchestrion´, ´Entry point´ and ´Expansion´.

All this makes the fusion parts of the album sound a bit machinelike (as the title also promised) but unfortunately lacking really exceptional moments. Those who enjoyed Pat Metheny Group´s legendary albums ´Offramp´ and ´The Way Up´ may find that Orchestrion offers less surprises, some of the tracks don´t grow very much musically, and there is little synergy and dialogue between instrumentalists, which has been easily graspable on PMG´s earlier releases.

On the other hand it must be remembered that Pat played all of the instruments by himself and this is something that he really excels in. Last two tracks of the album - ´Soul Search´ and ´The Spirit of the Air´ present some remarkable and jazzy compositions and allow Pat to unleash his guitar genius. All things considered, Orchestrion creates some pleasent airwaves to listen to, but leaves few melodies to haunt you after you turn off the stereo. 3,5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for reading my very first review on PA.

Report this review (#279966)
Posted Friday, April 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars My first album by Pat so I cannot compare, however this album seems like obvious choice for me. Because as someone not so used to listen Jazz, being not revolutionary enough is actually big advantage for me. Being easy to listen and still offer a lot of interesting sounds, even not necessarily complex can be good.

If new means contemporary then yes, this may be advocate, representative album of modern Jazz. Not Prog at all costs, but Jazz for sure. And when compared to some normal "jazzy" tunes that just uses skeletal pattern of what Jazz is, then this is if not progressive then at least Prog.

The fact the Pat Metheny plays all instruments alone is remarkable, one would easily say that this is real life (5-6 members) band. Nostalgia element is also prominent here and it adds to my liking of this.

4(+), not so sure about Prog here (I've leave it be to Prog or Jazz experts), but very likable album that will find its fans.

Report this review (#281048)
Posted Saturday, May 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Orchestrion' - Pet Metheny (8/10)

Through my experience with Paul Metheny, I may not have loved everything I have heard from him, but I have come to really respect him as a brilliant fusion guitarist. When I don't care for something of his, it is usually a matter of it being too smooth for my tastes, and I tend to get a bit bored despite the dynamic musicianship throughout each album. It is the albums that seek to be more than mere mood music that I've found I care about the most; 'The Way Up' is the chief example of this, through its dynamic and diverse approach. Happily, I find Metheny's 2010 offering 'Orchestrion' to be an album that has enough going on for it to jump out of the background. As skilled a composer as he is a guitarist, 'Orchestrion' proves Pat Metheny is still at the height of his game.

As the title may suggest, this is more than the quartet or trio style of jazz that some might be used to. While the piano, clean guitar tone and mellow drums are all staples here, the arrangements are fairly complex here. Enter the title track 'Orchestrion', a piece which features rapidfire guitar and xylophone harmonies that are much in the sound of Frank Zappa. The xylophone is never a leading instrument for any of the work on 'Orhcestrion', but it instead serves as being a great way to add depth to the already good sound Metheny has crafted here. The complexity here aside, there is not enough here to entail an orchestra, which I may have thought was the case for this album.

The performances here are admirable, especially in the complex lead arrangements. Metheny performs everything heard on 'Orchestrion', and it is very clear to any listening that he's a brilliant multi-instrumentalist. The cornerstone of the music is certainly the guitar, of which Metheny uses a clean guitar sound quite typical of jazz. Much to an ironic effect however, the guitars are one of my less favourite aspects of the sound here. Certainly as talented a soloist as any other guitarist in jazz fusion, it does feel after a few minutes into the album that Metheny is merely noodling around with the lead. This is all done extremely well, but the sheer amount of album time spent showcasing his guitar talents feels as if it hinders the composition of the work, which is otherwise excellent.

Pat Metheny's work is usually decided based on the writing of the music, rather than the strength of the performance, which is always top notch. While not the best album I have heard the man churn out, there is certainly the clear evidence of careful writing here, especially when Metheny takes out some unexpected instruments out like the tambla drums and incorporates it into the mix. That being said, there are not as many hooks or dynamics as I may have liked to see here.

'Orchestrion' may not show Metheny's vision at its strongest, but it is certainly one of the better things the man has come out with. A complex, somewhat mellow but consistently entertaining album, 'Orchestrion' is an excellent album for intelligent relaxation.

Report this review (#423634)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Based on a XIXth C instrument (or should we say a battery of instruments) the present album is the culmination of Metheny's fascination with this gizmo, and this solo album is a bit of his holy grail. Indeed, between pianos, marimbas, vibes, tuned percussions, guitars ad all kinds of self-made gizmos (including two bottle blowers), the principle is to have only one operator handling all of them at the same time in only one take. A rather impressive performance in itself, not totally devoid of technical interest, but if the music being performed is average, then the value of the experiment is almost pointless. And to be honest, besides the prowess of playing everything by Metheny himself on the album (I mean this is the truest meaning of a solo album, since he's the only one appearing in here), there isn't that much interest, because sonically-speaking Orchestrion doesn't sound any different than most of his other albums, beit the group or other solo ventures of his. In a way this kind of venture is more of an engineerial feat than an artistic one, because on has to actually build the whole gizmo, if not from scratch, at least in linking the instruments via a series of electrical relays to allow the solo operator to command all sonic tools concerned.

Ok, if you're a fan of Metheny's music, there isn't much doubt that you'll enjoy the present, since it's more or less the latest little brother in his overall oeuvre. But this writer hasn't really been a fan for quite a while, and the charm doesn't work much, if at all. Actually another small technical prowess is to develop the typical snoozy ECM sound on another label, and this is Nonesuch-ally achieved. Soooo, let's give it half a star for the pictures and explanations in the booklet (though they could've been better), but giving it more than an average three star would also be unfair, because the sonic contents are nowhere as groundbreaking as the technique it used. And most important, there are no hints of those horrible Synclaviers that were one of Pat's trademark for so many years? An honest release, but nothing that will revolutionize the jazz world, despite the impressive technology developed for it

Report this review (#635073)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars What can I say? I was a little cautious about the fact that Pat Metheny plays on all the instruments in this album, but it seems to have worked out just fine.

The musicianship on average is competent at the very least, the drums being probably the least remarkable - which is fully compensated by the excellent guitar work.

The compositions are extremely well balanced: rich in texture and sound, but still fluid and smooth-flowing; complex, but not crowded; slightly out-of-focus in a cute dreamy way, but without any blurriness or smudginess ... in short, a great professional accomplishment that has certainly exceeded my expectations. What pleasant music to listen to!

I would give it 4.5 stars, but since there isn't such thing, I will have to round it down to 4?

Report this review (#805359)
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2012 | Review Permalink

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