Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2005, Day 7, July 6, 2005
With guitarist Pat Metheny seemingly everywhere at the festival this year, it's no surprise that he would end up as a guest at Thielemans' showThielemans played on Metheny's early '90s recording Secret Story, and the bond that began thirteen years ago remained strong when he sat in for two songs. Given Metheny's usual high tech setup, it was refreshing to hear him in such a stripped-down contextnothing more than his hollowbody guitar and an amp. And while Metheny's evolved into an athletic player capable of complex ideas and textural thoughts, he's still equally capable of pure, unadorned simplicity. For those fortunate enough to see all the shows that Metheny has been involved with at this year's festival, it's a truly unique opportunity to experience, up close, Metheny's incredibly diverse musical interests.
When Metheny left the stage, Werner and Thielemans became a duo once again, delivering one of the highlights of the show, a look at Charlie Chaplin's classic "Smile." This tune can easily veer to saccharine sentimentality, but it was instead a thing of delicate beauty in the hands of Thielemans and Werner. Werner's gentle stride gave the song just the right amount of stylistic nostalgia without losing sight of its more timeless nature.
Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu then joined them onstage for three tunes, including a refined version of "All the Things You Are" and Thielemans' own classic "Bluesette." While there's no denying the Miles Davis influence on Fresu, he has his own take that is at once subtly restrained yet slightly flamboyant, driving Werner and Thielemans to swing more vividly than anywhere else in the show.
Ending the set on a tender note, with a melancholy yet somehow hopeful reading of Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quittez Pas," Thielemans and Werner didn't even get the opportunity to leave the stage before the boisterous standing ovation encouraged them to come back for one more tune. Thielemans recounted how the first jazz record he ever heard was by Louis Armstrong, and the duo launched into an almost definitive version of "What a Wonderful World." An elegant way to end a show that may have been defined by its light and graceful approach, but will equally be remembered for its intimacy and overriding joyous interplay.
While the level of anticipation for all of Metheny's By Invitation performances has been high, with virtually all the concerts selling out in record time, his performance billed as "Pat Metheny and Friends: Special Encounter" last night was perhaps the one with the most buzz. Teaming with artists that he's either only played with rarely or has simply admired from afar, Metheny hit the stage at Le Spectrum just before 10 pm and told the audience that he hoped they were ready because he had a lot of music for the evening. And while there are varying degrees of risk at all of Metheny's By Invitation performances, this concert operated without a safety net. While a fair amount of rehearsal took place for this show over the past couple of days, there was still the sense that almost anything could happen.
First up was a quartet that featured drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Scott Colley from the previous night's trio performance, fleshing things out with saxophonist David Sanchez. Staying for the most part with his warm hollowbody guitar sound, Metheny joined the group to deliver an 85-minute performance that opened up with his own "H&H" from Question and Answer, then moved onto his samba-style take on John Coltrane's perennially challenging "Giant Steps." It was a testament to both Metheny and David Sanchez's improvisational acumen that they were able to find melodic ideas that connected through the composition's complex set of changes.
The sense that Metheny was making yet another stylistic leap, so dominant in his trio show the previous day, was equally evident in the quartet performance. Again his incredible ability to self-accompany throughout his solos with an almost unparalleled sense of invention was a constant highlight. Sanchez, whose own group was a high point of the recently-ended Ottawa International Jazz Festival, demonstrated that, while Latin music is in his blood, he has a clear sense of the American tradition as well.
Colley was, if possible, even more powerful than the previous night, his connection with Antonio Sanchez even more vivid and empathicthe benefit of playing more than one night together. And Antonio Sanchez, whose drumming has pushed Metheny to greater heights, demonstrated power and nuance, locking in with Colley and creating all kinds of tension and release behind whoever was soloing. Never about simple support, Colley and Antonio Sanchezand David Sanchez and Metheny, too, for that matterconsistently focused on complete engagement, pure immersion, and keeping their minds open to any and all possibilities.
Following two Ornette Coleman compositions, originally recorded during Metheny's Song X sessions but never before released, and now pending issue on a remastered version of that disc later this summer, the quartet played "Every Day (I Thank You)," from Metheny's 80/81. The song took on special significance as Metheny dedicated it to saxophonist Michael Brecker, who was on the album and has recently been diagnosed with a serious and potentially life-threatening blood disorder.
Ending the first set of the evening with "When We Were Free" from his Pat Metheny Group record, Quartet, Metheny turned things up a notch with his trumpet-like guitar synthesizer for a relentlessly powerful version that brought the audience to its feet.