Pat Methany: Orchestrion

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COMPOSERS: Pat Metheny
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Orchestrion
PERFORMER: Pat Metheny (guitar, orchestrion)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79847-3


Here’s an extraordinary project that will divide fans, musicians and critics: super guitarist Pat Metheny fronting a modern day jazz orchestrion. The idea of musical automata dates from the late 19thcentury and so-called player pianos. Metheny has gone a step further by creating a large ensemble of programmable acoustic instruments that includes keyboards, kit drums, vibes and even tuned bottles – all played via switches and pneumatics.

The Mephistophelean Pat Metheny controls all the inputs and overdubs and then leans in with his characteristic improvised lines. As a setting for the superstar’s impeccable and effusive melodic invention, the electro-mechanical orchestrion is always on message. Because he’s programmed his accompanists he has the perfect band in that he always knows what they are going to do.


But here is a potential problem: that orchestrionics makes the performance too perfect, too relentless, compared to one with sentient sidemen. Perhaps the answer is to concentrate on listening as if this is a solo performance. Which it is. Garry Booth