First of all, my first encounter with the music of Pat Metheny was in 1977. At this particular time as a jazz lover I felt there was too much “hype” surrounding the music and the persona of Pat Metheny. It appeared to me that he being treated as if he was a guitar “God” of some sort, frankly I wasn’t feeling that at all. However, it wasn’t until early 1990’s when I was re-introduced to Pat Metheny’s music at a performance by the Alvin Alley Dance Troup, ironically the director used “The First Circle” on the opening piece that evening. In amazement after hearing this music I soon discovered it was Pat Metheny. At this point I humbled myself by recognizing the fact that Pat Metheny and his music is bigger then the “hype” that I had witness years earlier. Until this very day there is something profound about his compositions, his tone/voice, and the artistry of Pat Metheny speaks volumes to anyone that’s willing too listen.


Disclaimer: “Okay, this review isn’t necessarily for a Pat Metheny fans per-say, (chances are Metheny fans are going to buy his music regardless what anyone says). Reviewing “The Way Up” is more or less for those of you that are somewhere in-between modern jazz, fusion, traditional etc.” that may not have considered his music but on the other hand you might be open to the idea of it.


The Players: Lyle Mays ~ acoustic piano, keyboards, Steve Rodby ~ acoustic & electric bass and cello, Cuong Vu ~ trumpet and voice, Gregoire Maret ~ harmonica, Antonia Sanchez ~ drums, Pat Metheny ~ acoustic, electric, synth, and slide guitars with special guests Richard Bona ~ percussion and voice, David Samuels ~ percussion, all compositions by Metheny & Mays. Produced by Pat Metheny and Co-Produced by Steve Rodby & Lyle Mays on Nonesuch Records 2005.


The Pat Metheny Group’s musical odyssey continues too elevate beyond the scope of the ordinary man’s imagination. With that said, it will certainly take more than one listen to objectively assess this thematic four-part overture and to properly digest this soon to be timeless masterpiece.


Odd as it is “Opening” is the title and lead track. It has these screeching sounds of the urban landscape layered beneath in the background, with each propelling note composers Metheny and Mays paints this massive canvas overflowing with colorful detailed visions that illustrates the intricacies of the birth that’s taken place on “The Way Up”. Each movement draws you closer to the mystique of their harmonic vocabulary, soaring rhythms, breathtaking soundscapes that twists and twirls magically in the voice of creativity that arrives intact at its destination giving you exactly what you’ve come to expect and beyond.


The mystery of the Metheny Group unravels itself in second stage with a twenty-five minute musical exploration divided into four parts. Metheny’s usual harmonic sensibility as a guitarist can easily capture your desire for his compelling yet uncompromising melodies coupled by the pure genius of Lyle Mays. As a group they embark upon a relentless world fusion extravaganza titled “Part One”. The group explodes by penetrating every possible avenue artistically by encompassing this territory with solidarity, depth, clarity and compassionate desires. Trumpeter Cuong Vu drops in at the 18:20 mark providing just the right measure of substance, maybe a hint of Miles or even Wynton layered over the top. Metheny comes back with his tone filled with lyrical phrases that are deliberately slow to rapid in speed reminding us he’s still very much part of the equation. In the mist drummer Antonio Sanchez interjects his spirit with compassionate energy weaving in and out fluidly (all over this project).


Metheny opens with his gorgeous signature sound on “Part Two” (20:29 in length) playing his acoustic softly guitar with assistance from longtime band-mate Steve Rodby on bass and cello. The harmonica stylings of Gregoire Maret intercedes by wrapping his voice in with color coded shapes at intervals, this phase of the piece, reminds me of an extended interlude. Later, Mays quietly caresses the keys joining in with soft ambient sequences, he is now reaping the reward of his masterful playing that’s coming to life with alternating conversations between peers by further exploring the possibilities of this arrangement. This wouldn’t be a picturesque Metheny Group piece unless the spontaneity of the group comes alive. At 7:00 minute mark Sanchez and Vu converges as they meet as if in turmoil fused by improvised solos with rapid fire ascending vigorously only to later cease-fire at 12: 30 peak. At this point the group retreats with rapport to the source of familiarity, meanwhile it seems they’re involved in a moment of obscure musing, out of balance perhaps it might appear but very well in the body of the piece. Mays and Metheny gradually excels into a jazzier space with a morsel of wondrous theatrics that soon raises the bar with validity. 


“Part Three” (15:54) at the beginning of the track vintage Metheny in command, he uses the voice of his acoustic, electric and synthesizer guitars like a noble warrior uses his weapons of choice this is absolutely mesmerizing.  I love the use of the harmonica featuring Maret on several selections throughout the project; he offers an additional sense of melodicism. The group’s passion for intensity spreads its wings vibrantly with powerful and thought provoking solos for about nine and a half minutes. At the arrival of the 10-minute point of entry Metheny and the boys manages to pull you into a transitional point promptly, this as in so many cases with their orchestrations brings symmetry echoing traces of sonic beauty.


The exquisite compositions and musical arrangements by the Pat Metheny Group are simply phenomenal, graced by an abundance of flawless musicianship takes the music to another level. As I see and hear it Metheny and Mays have accomplished their mission, has a lifelong dream come to live? Sounds like it. Mays and Metheny are two of the most important and gifted composers in the 21 Century overkill (hype) I don’t think so. Why? It’s like this do yourself a favor and listen too the music for yourself and you’ll discover exactly what I mean. True, you might not dig it; could be a lot of noise to some. One thing for sure there’s a lot of great music and musicians out there, nonetheless from what I’ve heard (in all due respect) “The Way Up” compositionally is the most creative, challenging and innovative record to date, nuff said.



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