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The writer Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, speaks to the notion of creative ideas – and I am paraphrasing here – as being delicate wisps of kinetic energy travelling through the ether in search of someone astute – or worthy enough – to make them their own. Once found, a person has minutes, days, weeks, months, maybe even years to cultivate such ideas into whatever creative home one belongs be they writer, painter, sculptor or musician, lest the ideas find someone new or are lost forever.
With his latest release Dream Box, we find the Composer/Guitarist Pat Metheny digging deep into his not-too-distant past to bring the listener a set of nine “found” tunes for “quiet electric guitar” that represent moments in time that even Pat forgot about. As he states in the liner notes, this album is “…a unique recording for me; it is essentially a compilation of solo tracks recorded across a few years that I only [re-]discovered while listening on tour.”
These re-discovered tracks showcase Metheny’s devotion to the beauty of a simple, undemanding melody on top of a resolute harmonic foundation, which he does beautifully by utilizing two tracks to record: one for the harmonic/chordal content and one for the melodic content. This is a process that has served him well since he recorded “Unity Village” on his first release as a leader – 1976’s Bright Size Life – allowing greater freedom for improvisation than a strict solo guitar arrangement could provide.
That being said, the last tune on the album, “Clouds Can’t Change the Sky”, appears to be played as a solo piece and has all the earmarks of a Metheny style solo arrangement. Sparse notes, finger-style chordal fragments, lush baritone bass tones and a touch of velvety sound processing lend a moody quality to the piece that only Pat Metheny can provide. It is no longer the academic relationship between notes and chords that matters when Metheny puts fingers to fret-board, but the space, breath, spirit and fertile imagination of whatever it is – the jenna sais quoi factor – that makes Pat Metheny, Pat Metheny.
This can, of course, be said for all the nine tunes played on Dream Box* as they share a similar mood and vibe that caters to Metheny’s intimate “quiet electric guitar” sensibility, reminding me of Pat’s One Quiet Night and What’s It All About albums. As Metheny himself states:
The focus here is on electric guitar, but maybe more to the point; quiet electric guitar. It is an area of particular interest for me. A goal has always been to have a touch on the electric that might get me as close to the kind of phrase-by-phrase dynamics that can occur naturally with an acoustic instrument. In fact, using an electric in this way is quite a bit harder than what occurs naturally with an acoustic. There is one more step between the touch of the player and the listener that has to be accounted for.Pat Metheny
Now don’t let the phrase “quiet electric guitar” fool you! He still plays the heck out of the guitar as witnessed on “Never Was Love” and Bonfá/Maria’s “Morning of the Carnival” where his blowing is more brisk in slight contrast to the other tunes…at least to my ears. Now, this is not a bad thing at all, as the rhythmic and harmonic foundations of the remaining pieces dictate the velocity – if you will – in regards to Metheny’s responsiveness and sensitivity to the overall arc of the tune! Keep in mind, this is a more mature – both age-wise (68) and musically – Pat Metheny who, after a lifetime of musical service, really has nothing to prove. I mean seriously, the beauty and intimate dynamics of “From The Mountains”, “The Waves Are Not The Ocean”, “Ole & Gard”, “Trust Your Angels”, “P.C. of Belgium” should be enough to appease even the most die-hard of Metheny fans. And of course, the Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn tune “I Fall In Love To Easily” speaks for itself when listened to!
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for more “sizzle” or group style performances, then his earlier PM/Unity group albums or his current Side-Eye project should suffice nicely.
Chances are, if you’re a total Metheny fan then you most likely already have this album. If you’re still on the fence, then check out the link below to hear what you might be missing out on as this new album provides another glimpse into Pat’s sound-scape artistry, adding yet another layer of authenticity to the musician and composer that is Pat Metheny.
*There is a bonus track – “Blue In Green” – on some of the albums that one can order – I think they are Japanese Imports – but I had not received any of those so I can’t comment on that tune…but I gotta figure it is played as nicely as all the rest 🙂
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If you would like to support all the work I do on Jazz Guitar Life, please consider buying me a coffee or visiting the Jazz Guitar Life sponsors. Thank you and your patronage is greatly appreciated regardless if you buy me a coffee or not 🙂