Although one often thinks of Jaco Pastorius' first solo album as being 1976's Jaco on Epic, producer/keyboardist Paul Bley actually gave Pastorius his first chance to lead a recording two years earlier. Coincidentally titled Jaco, this spontaneous set (which has been reissued on CD) is also significant for being among guitarist Pat Metheny's first recordings; completing the quartet are Bley on electric piano and drummer Bruce Ditmas. The music consists of three songs by Bley, five from Carla Bley, and "Blood" by Annette Peacock. Pastorius sounds quite powerful, but Metheny's tone is kind of bizarre, very distorted and not at all distinctive at this point.
There's a bit of a role reversal going on with this one. Trumpeter Cuong Vu—a Pat Metheny devotee from the time he first heard the guitarist's Travels (ECM, 1983) as a teenager—eventually came to join the Pat Metheny Group, enhancing the sound of the band on a pair of Grammy-winning albums: Speaking Of Now (Warner Bros. 2002) and The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005). Now Metheny returns the favor, joining Vu's crew for this expansive outing.
Like the echo of a grand landscape, Metheny and Mays create an atmospheric meditation on traveling across the great open expanse of America As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. By turns introspective and hymn-like, soaring and transcendent, the music resonates with a rural spirit, to which the Brazilian percussion of Nana Vasconcelos brings a more universal feel. Both "It's For You" and the epic title track evoke sonic vistas that touch a nerve with their layered keyboards and guitars. "Ozark" is a dynamic track featuring piano propelled by gentle percussion, while "September Fifteenth" is a quiet and deeply moving dedication to pianist Bill Evans. "Estupenda Graca" is like a gentle prayer sung both as closure, and in anticipation of the travels to come.
BRIGHT SIZE LIFE, his first solo album, is an anomaly in the Pat Metheny discography. Rather than inaugurating a new era in his music, it celebrates the end of another. Of the eight superb arrangements that make up BRIGHT SIZE LIFE, only the gentle ballad "Unity Village" (an overdubbed duet between electric 6- and 12-string guitars) made it to the Pat Metheny Group repetoire. And yet, some 20 years after documenting the music of his first working group, BRIGHT SIZE LIFE endures as among the finest, freshest trio recordings in the history of jazz.
Quartet Live edits the best bits from a late spring 2007 two-night stay at Yoshi's, Oakland's celebrated jazz club, where many stellar live performances have been recorded. The program benefits from a wide musical selection, including material penned by Carla Bley, Chick Corea, Duke Ellington, and the quartet musicians.
Guitar giants John Scofield and Pat Metheny teamed up for the first time on records for this CD. The collaboration does take awhile to get going and it is not until the fourth cut, the bluish "Everybody's Party," that the sparks begin to fly; fortunately the momentum does not let up much throughout the remainder of the CD. All of the selections (including two blues) are originals by either of the guitarists and, with the accompaniment of bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, this varied set generally lives up to expectations.