With two formidable concerts, pat metheny fulfilled his long-awaited return to Buenos Aires. Saturday and Sunday, the American guitarist performed at the Gran Rex Theaterbefore a faithful and fervent public. The public that during the almost three hours that each show lasted joyfully indulged in the journey between past and present proposed by one of the great musicians of recent decades. What the pandemic had postponed — the concerts had been scheduled for March 2020 — was finally fulfilled, to satisfy fans of several generations who filled the room and who, judging by the intensity of the applause, were left with the feeling of having seen and listened to an upright and inspired artist, who at 68 years old, in his full maturity, does not stop showing signs of fullness.
Support of that fullness is the quartet, which balances the mystique of Metheny with the experience of the Mexican Anthony Sanchez — the secrecy between past and present, which supports the guitarist since speaking of now (2002)–; Welsh pianist and keyboardist Gwilym Simcockwho had the good taste to play more piano than keyboards, and the amazing Malaysian double bass player Linda May Han Oh, patron of a round and ductile sound and a penetrating swing, which adds a thicker fiber to Metheny’s music. Each musician in the band is an individuality, that is to say, a sound and a style, put at the service of a group idea that, from that variety, reflects Metheny’s particular vision of fusion: the incorruptible melodic taste crossed by airs of rock, folk, bop, bossa nova, pop and much more, elaborated to the edges of abstraction with jazz procedures.
While the enthusiastic comments of the fans who attended the Gran Rex on Saturday multiplied on social networks, the second night, Sunday, maintained the ardor and structure of the first. Metheny traced a sinuous and charming route, which rocked between the music of his latest album from this place (2020) to themes of that early and always green Bright size life (1976). Earlier, at the opening, while the latecomers finished settling in, he acted Manu Sija. The notable multi-instrumentalist from Tucuman chose the bandoneon as the main tool to trace his personal sound landscape, in which, of course, gestures and sounds of the Metheny brand were not lacking.
After a brief wait, several times hurried by the impatient clapping of hands coming down from the Pullman, the lights went out and to the howl of the Metheny room he appeared alone. Sitting center stage, his hair untouched and graying, the guitarist hunched over the Pikasso –a hybrid of guitar, zither and lyre, with 42 strings, three fingerboards and two soundholes, created in 1984 by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer— to test the air with relaxed improvisations, as if exploring the possibilities of the instrument, in the manner of Renaissance tientos. Immediately, with the band already on stage and the weather mild, the fire was opened with “Bright size life”, a brand of origin that entered the complex machinery of the quartet with its melodic candor.
Metheny’s Ibanez PM-100, and that iconic sound of his music, comes in and out of the foreground, opening dialogues with his peers, changing climates and perspectives, making and promoting improvisations. With freshness and a full sense of harmonics, Simcock knows how to wait for his moment to take melodic simplicity to levels of instrumental complexity, while Linda May Han Oh adjusts the base without losing lyricism on double bass. Both were also released in short and forceful solos, which combined a wide harmonic palette and a relentless sense of rhythm. Solid and subtle, Sánchez, one of the most sensational drummers of this era, divided time at the least expected moment and the music multiplied in its infinite variety of timbres. Economical in his movements and prodigal in inventiveness, the Mexican soloed always different, adjusted to the general climate of the theme and at the same time capable of developing it.
The first hour of the concert happened without cracks and in that plan tensions and distensions, attacks and withdrawals alternated, climates between the delight of what is happening and the expectation of what can happen. Metheny changed instruments –among others he used a synthesized Roland G303– and adjusted pedals. Although the sound could be different, the music and its dynamics remained the same, product of the encounter between individuality and group work, between the penetrating melody and the possible developments of improvisation.
In the second part, a great moment was the duet encounter between the guitarist and each of his instrumentalists. With Sánchez he shared a kind of “call and response” based on electric riffs, with a distorted sound and rock mystique, but super abundant in ideas; with Simcock he proposed a ballad in which the pianist picked up the gauntlet of the unforgettable Lyle Mays; with Linda May Han Oh he elaborated, seated and with a nylon string guitar, a series of ballads among which the “Love Theme” of the sound column that Ennio Morricone composed for the film shone cinema Paradiso.
The end came with some more theme of from this place and the hug with the encores, which dug into the sensitive areas of memory to finish satisfying an audience grateful to be where it was. Live, much more than on records, Metheny knows how to convey the irreplaceable warmth of the stagefrom where he builds a particular contact with his musicians, to return it to his public.
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Path Metheny: a journey between past and present | The American guitarist gave two memorable concerts at the Gran Rex Theater