Pat Metheny at Ronnie Scott's

Oliver Condy enjoys the guitarist’s set at the world-famous London jazz venue

Pat Metheny at Ronnie Scott's
Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny didn't have to play a note to silence the Ronnie Scott's crowd. The sight of his 42-string Pikasso guitar, a strange sort of apparatus combining six-string baritone guitar and 36-string harp, was enough. Metheny opened his set with it, eliciting waves of modal sound, overlapping the deceptively simple diatonicism of 'So May it Secretly Begin'. An evening of classic Metheny had begun.

Metheny is one of a handful of jazz artists who are as convincing in international stadiums as they are in small jazz venues. And in the intimacy of Ronnie Scott's, the up-close-and-personal gave way to an openly joyous, unbridled performance of 'Have You Heard' from Letter from Home, the Pikasso making way for Metheny's regular Gibson guitar.

Metheny's selling power (tickets for this show were £100 upwards) is undimmed since his seminal albums of the early to mid 1980s: As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, Offramp, Letter from Home, Travels and Still Life (Talking), to name a small selection. His intricate, accessible compositions are key to his success and popularity, as are his arresting musicianship and melodically-inspired improvisations. But it's easy to forget his knack for choosing the right musicians for the right job; ones who have the ears – and the chops – for the guitarist's own brand of well-oiled spontaneity.

Here, his newly-selected line-up was an inspired choice. Ex-BBC New Generation Artist Gwilym Simcock tailored his instincts to deliver a responsive, near rock-jazz style, reminiscent of Lyle Mays, Metheny's pianist, musical soulmate and close collaborator on many of his best-selling earlier albums; US bassist Linda Oh possessed the wit and wisdom to push her instrument centre-stage; and drummer Antonio Sanchez played with a broad colour palette and a breathtaking technique, revealing his full armoury of dynamics and textures in a beautifully balanced, thoughtful duet with Metheny.

There was, refreshingly, no new album to push, allowing the band to journey through fresh arrangements of Metheny's better-known tunes including 'Last Train Home', 'James' and the beautifully crafted ballad 'Farmer's Trust' from Metheny's 1999 album with fellow guitarist Jim Hall. 'James', perhaps his most famous track (and originally starring one of Lyle Mays's most sumptuous solos) was here transformed as if shone through delicate crystal glass, shards of theme emerging and dissolving as Metheny and co. weaved in and out of the written score.

Just the one encore felt a little frugal, but with two sets to cram into one evening, it was hardly surprising…

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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