Metheny Group. Pat - Speaking Of Now

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Catalog Number: 9 48025-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:30:00

You know what? I love the Pat Metheny Group, and have for years. So when I ran across Speaking of Now, I had very high expectations for what I hoped would be another engaging musical tour de force. What I got, though, was a bit of a disappointment. Which was (and still is) a big surprise for me, given that PMG has consistently produced a lot of my most favorite music over the past twenty-something years. What happened?

Well, the PMG has changed personnel yet again. Happily, the core unit - Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, and Steve Rodby - remains intact, and with it, the inspiration and musical standards synonymous with the PMG name. The three new members - Richard Bona, Cuong Vu, and Antonio Sanchez - are capable musicians and each adds his own distinctive personality to the music while aspiring to those vaunted PMG standards. In fact, the "new guys" are almost a perfect fit for PMG, a testament to their talents and to the discriminating ears of Metheny, Mays, and Rodby. But I don't think that is the real issue....

What I'm hearing is a change in that inspiration I mentioned earlier. In the past, a great deal of the Pat Metheny Group's output has been lively and uplifting, countered with mellow periods of touching depth, particularly Lyle Mays' quiet piano compositions. Speaking Of Now seems to have turned that recipe on its ear, offering up a mellow collection of songs that allows for musical exploration but also seems to meander in spots. It might be in part due to the pieces found here; five of the nine songs exceed eight minutes, a bit longer than most of the songs produced by PMG since the middle 1980s. This, combined with the quiet timbre, creates a challenge that PMG would have easily overcome in the past, but just doesn't meet on Speaking Of Now. Putting it bluntly, "puts me to sleep" is not a phrase I've ever used in the same breath with Pat Metheny Group, but Speaking of Now.... Well, you get my drift.

Okay, now you know what I think of Speaking Of Now, but don't be too discouraged because all is never lost on a PMG release. Maestros Metheny and Mays haul out some great solos, with the best moments to be found on "Proof," "You," and "On Her Way," and bassist Steve Rodby shows that he is the real heartbeat of PMG, providing much-needed drive and inspiration to the songs when all else appears to have failed. Richard Bona's vocals are clear and distinctive, and lend an unusual sense of language to his wordless styling. The production is, as always, superb; all instruments and voices are well defined and nicely mixed into the large group sound.

In the end, though, Speaking Of Now doesn't rank with my favorite Pat Metheny Group albums and hereafter won't get much time on my cd player. While most groups only wish they could make an album half as good as Speaking Of Now, PMG can certainly make one twice as good. Maybe next time, guys?

As It Is (7:40) / Proof (10:13) / Another Life (7:08) / The Gathering Sky (9:22) / You (8:24) / On Her Way (6:04) / A Place In The World (9:52) / Afternoon (4:43) / Wherever You Go (8:04)

Pat Metheny - acoustic, electric & synthesizer guitars
Lyle Mays - acoustic piano, keyboards
Steve Rodby - acoustic bass
Richard Bona - vocals, percussion
Cuong Vu - trumpet, vocals
Antonio Sanchez - drums

(PMG only)
Pat Metheny Group (1978)
American Garage (1980)
Offramp (1982)
Travels (1983)
First Circle (1984)
Still Life (Talking) 1987
Letter From Home (1989)
The Road To You (1993)
Here We Live (1995)
"Quartet" (1996)
Imaginary Day (1997)
Speaking of Now (2002)
The Way Up (2005)

Genre: Jazz/Trad. Jazz

Origin US

Added: October 20th 2002
Reviewer: David Cisco

Artist website:
Hits: 566
Language: english


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