Music

Pat Metheny Trio: Day Trip

Melody, swing, and the guitarist's signature sound on ten originals with a top-flight trio.


Pat Metheny Trio

Day Trip

Contributors: Pat Metheny, Christian McBride, Antonio Sanchez
Label: Nonesuch
US Release Date: 2008-01-29
UK Release Date: 2008-01-28
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For decades, jazz guitar traded in a certain degree of tonal anonymity. Sure, Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, and Grant Green had different styles and could be easily identified. But the basic sound of their instruments -- the tone that they sought to produce through their amplifiers -- was similar: clean, pure, ringing, straight-ahead. This was the aesthetic of jazz guitar, and it took players with a grounding in rock music to see that the revolution wrought by Jimi Hendrix could be a boon to jazz as well as rock.

One of the first guitarists to hit my ear as having a distinct guitar tone -- a guitarist I could identify based on a single note -- was Pat Metheny. His trio record Bright Size Life (1975) had some traditional virtues like swing and fluid improvising, but it featured wide-open, folkish melodies and the sharply different guitar tone of both the leader and his bassist, Jaco Pastorius. It wasn't rock guitar exactly (lacking feedback, distortion, or crunch), but Metheny's sound had a slight echo or chorus effect and a coolly muffled sting that set it apart. "Here is a guy", I thought at the time, "who knows what he wants to sound like."

And it was true. Though Metheny would become a notorious style-hopper over the next few decades, his every note was pure him. On poppish Pat Metheny Group records, the sound is like a sweet glider against the sky; on his records with great saxophonists (Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, and Michael Brecker, as a sideman with Kenny Garrett, to name just three), he is a quick-witted accompanist who is too quick to be icy; and on his relatively straight-ahead records with jazz trios, he plays with boppish style while still finding a way to evoke the plains of his native Nebraska.

Metheny's latest is another such trio session, a solid jazz record that neither hides behind poppish prettiness nor conceals Metheny's preternatural affinity for melody. It consists of ten original tunes featuring Christian McBride on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. The playing is all around outstanding -- complex rhythms and harmonies submit continually to Metheny's penchant for fluidity and tunefulness.

But, that sound. Since Metheny emerged to great acclaim, of course, his attack and sound has grown more common. Not only do guitarists such as Bill Frisell and Jon Scofield feature guitar sounds that are more peppery and rock-driven than Metheny's, but legions of younger players have upped the ante. It's not at all rare today to hear a "mainstream" jazz guitarist dial up a biting tone that still swings. Indeed, it is now possible to hear the "Metheny Sound" as a kind of baseline guitar sound -- the increasingly generic "bell-like tone" that begins a discussion of jazz guitar rather than ends it.

And so on Day Trip Metheny serves up a rich serving of a new kind of mainstream. "Let's Move" places speedy runs amidst amazing stop-times, sets them off against passages of suspended time, then lets the guitarist blaze over a prestissimo walking swing played fluidly by Sanchez and McBride. "Calvin's Keys" sets up as a loping blues but adds a tricky bridge. Metheny plays melodically and swingingly in both spots, grabbing licks out of thin air that grow directly out of the tunes themselves. On the latter track, you can hear the Ornette Coleman vibe in this playing, which is tangy like a malt vinegar.

Metheny also excels on ballads. "Is This America? (Katrina 2005)" is played all acoustic, and it reaches for harmonic territory that surprises just enough, even though the backbeat from Sanchez's brushes keeps things easy. "Dreaming Trees" is a freer essay for acoustic guitar, with a particularly affecting solo by a high-register McBride. "Snova" is a light-as-can-be bossa that sounds pleasingly present tense -- Metheny's solo double-times over the samba groove, but the effect remains pleasant and flowing, even if Metheny's high note pulls have a Nebraskan twang to them.

There is only one track on which Metheny whips out his dreaded guitar-synth. "The Red One" (which appeared previously on the Metheny/Scofield collaboration, I Can See Your House From Here) starts with the guitar sounding overdriven and pungent, getting a low and kick-ass punch that is too often missing from Metheny's pleasant guitaristic palette. When he moves the instrument into a higher range, though, it screeches like a synth, making the whole point of being a guitar player seem to disappear. Still, Sanchez plays adroitly here, and the band even has a moment of pseudo-reggae groove. Nice.

By now, we're used to our man toggling between semi-smooth Pat Metheny Group records and projects of greater "jazz" merit. He has made several trio discs over the years, and it's tempting to hear Day Trip as just another in his string of options. But this trio -- particularly with the hearty-voiced McBride anchoring things on bass -- is different enough to stand out. At this point, Metheny has long ceased being a novelty, so his pure jazz guitar records have to succeed on invention and cohesive group interaction. This one does.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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