You, me, the music, and me.

Monday, November 21, 2005


ECM-2-1180 (1980)

Listening to guitarist Pat Metheny's recorded output over the years makes me wonder if there are actually two Pat Methenys; one who makes breezy, melodically appealing smooth jazz and had a top 40 hit with David Bowie, and another one who makes daring free-form jazz and likes to wail alongside Ornette Coleman. Most of his fans would probably agree that, yes, there are two Pat Methenys, and they reside in the same body with the same creative mind and the same fleet fingers. Many would also say that these two beings aren't all that different in their tastes and sensibilities, and that having both of them around provides a nice balance. Others may like one Pat but have no use for the other. Whatever your opinion may be, there's probably something for you on 80/81, no matter what type of Pat Metheny fan you are.

80/81 is a double album on the ECM label from 1980 that showcases both sides of Metheny's artistry. Sides one and four feature the lighter, jazz-pop fare of "Two Folk Songs" (the latter of which spotlights Charlie Haden's nimble bass playing) and "Every Day (I Thank You)", on which tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker lays down a solo that wouldn't sound out of place on most smooth jazz radio stations (let alone some pop/light rock ones). Sides two and three are more adventurous and playful; avant saxist Dewey Redman lends his raunchy tone to the title track, and he trades riffs with Brecker on "The Bat" and "Pretty Scattered". "Open" is a collective group improvisation that prominently features the imaginative percussion of Jack DeJohnette. "Turnaround" is a guitar/bass/drums cover of the popular blues by Ornette Coleman, who was a major influence on Metheny's freer music in the eighties (and who, like Metheny, has an appreciation for both the pretty melody and the free-jazz freakout).

Metheny's later releases tend to stick to one style or the other, so if you'd like to sample both for the price of one album, 80/81 is a great place to check out the music of both Pat Methenys. (Warning: early CD issues of this album omit the tracks "Open" and "Pretty Scattered" so as to fit all the music onto one CD. Later double-CD reissues correct this problem.)


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