Pat Metheny Unity Group ‘Kin’ (Nonesuch) 4/5

pat-metheny-unityJazz guitar maestro Pat Metheny returns with a newly formed group that has once again expanded his already considerable horizons with a gorgeous sounding album and one that harks back in feel to the early 1980s in some respects with the inclusion of brass, yet Pat Metheny is certainly no revival merchant and the music typically looks forward to future climbs. The addition of new member Giulio Carmassi is a stroke of genius from Metheny in that new musical layers are added since Carmassi is a multi-instrumentalist who plays cello, clarinet, trumpet and trombone. Meanwhile Metheny himself performs on an array of instruments including synths and guitar synthesizer. Classic terrain is explored on ‘Sign of the Season’ which is arguably the album’s finest composition and it compares most favourably with his vast body of work. In particular there is some lovely soprano saxophone soloing from Chris Potter and inventive percussion. The title track is a bustling number, quite possibly deliberately mirroring the rapid technological age we are currently living through and ‘On day one’ is that most breezy of opening pieces. For some acoustic prowess, the quasi-flamenco feel to ‘Rise up’ with Metheny on acoustic guitar will enthral. One minor critique that might be levelled at Metheny is that his music might be perceived as too clever for it’s own good in that an overabundance of virtuosity can be too heavy to digest in one take. However, a counter argument and a convincing one at that is that this album simply sounds as though the group are having a ball and in an age of studio perfection, that is no bad thing. An early summer tour of the UK beckons and the virtuosity on display on this new group recording certainly whets the appetite for seeing and hearing the great musician in the flesh. Pat Metheny is quite simply the complete musician and we should all be grateful for that. Tim Stenhouse