Speaking of Now

COMPOSERS: Pat Metheny
LABELS: Warner Jazz
ALBUM TITLE: Pat Metheny Group
PERFORMER: Pat Metheny (g), Lyle Mays (p), Steve Rodby (b), Cuong Vu (t), Antonio Sanchez (d), Richard Bona (v, perc)
CATALOGUE NO: 9362-48025-2

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Here’s another instant hit from protean super-guitarist Pat Metheny. For this latest (11th) PMG studio album, Metheny has again taken the form of a natural-born jazzman who can simultaneously appeal to a wide AOR (adult-oriented rock) audience while retaining the respect of (ahem) more discerning jazz purists.

As with other PMG sessions, he does this by writing hummable, albeit rather soppy tunes that are delivered with devastating technical éclat. For those familiar with the Metheny back catalogue (and there are hundreds of thousands of fans out there) all the essential ingredients are included, plus some new flavourings. Lyle Mays’s sumptuous arrangements of wistful melodies are further sweetened by the addition of Cameroonian singer Richard Bona’s treacly harmonies, for example.

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Trumpeter Cuong Vu, whose horn is firmly in the middle of the road, blows spun gold. As for the leader himself, his playing is as flawless as ever with solo passages that are articulate and lyrical at the fastest tempo. But in the end, one has to wonder if he is taking this brand of neo-fusion too close to easy listening for comfort. It’s ironic that Metheny started out by mimicking Wes Montgomery and is now in danger of making the same mistake as his hero – by recording brilliantly executed, yet wholly unmemorable albums. Garry Booth