Pat Metheny and Unity Group
Pat Metheny told the audience at the Knight Theater in Charlotte last night that he's been performing live for 40 years. FORTY YEARS. What's it with jazz musicians and their longevity? (That is, when they're not riding horse or hooch?) Metheny, 59, has toured the world dozens of times over the decades and he has lost none of his dexterity -- at least to my ear. He and the Unity Group (reed man Chris Potter, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Antonio Sanchez and keyboardist Giulio Carmassi) performed selections from the ensemble's first disc, Unity Band, to open the evening -- and explosively, at that. Metheny, whose work cuts across generations and genres, is a most generous band leader, despite his virtuosity. He does not exploit the spotlight but uses it for the purpose it was created -- to showcase excellence. Highpoints of the evening were his duets with band members; his riffing with Potter throughout the evening pulled SO's from the audience several times. Some might find Metheny's more experimental forays into freer-jazz off-putting, but I appreciate the expansiveness of his vision, which was on full display last night as the Group performed suites from the new disc, KIN: propulsive soundscapes and ethereal atmospherics. In most cases, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts but in the case of Unity Group, each individual player's precision in signature and improvisation is so phenomenal that they can actually play along with ghost instruments (marimbas, high hats, accordions and vocals) without falling out of phase. Sheer brilliance!