Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2005, Day 11, July 10, 2005
The growth of the composition into a flawlessly energetic performance piece of remarkable depth, with more vivid improvisational elements, makes it more the pity that this was likely the last time this piece will be played in concert. Playing some form of excerpt from the album on subsequent tours would in fact be antithetical to the whole philosophy behind the release, and so it's a good thing that it has been recorded. It's one of the most consequential musical achievements in a nearly thirty-year run of high points from the Pat Metheny Group.
An important eighth member of the band deserves to be mentioned. She may not be onstage performing, but she's absolutely essential to Metheny's ability to put on a show of such logistical complexity: his guitar technician of twenty years, Carolyn Chrzan. Given the seemingly endless number of guitar changes, which also involved continual readjustment to accommodate his wide variety of unorthodox tunings, Chrzan quite simply is Metheny's critical right hand. And during some of his earlier performances at FIJM this week, it also became clear that her involvement goes beyond the instruments themselves, as she was seen to be adjusting settings on Metheny's high tech equipment rack at more than one show to get the tone that he was looking for.
Another key player who rarely receives the kind of recognition he deserves is Steve Rodby. A core member of the group for over twenty years, he's the kind of bassist who can be almost invisible, rarely taking a solo and always putting the interests of the ensemble ahead of his own. Still, his impeccable time, consistently perfect choice of notes, and unfailing groove in the broadest of musical contexts that make up a Pat Metheny Group performance have made him absolutely essential to the group's complexion. He's also taken on more of a role in production over the years and, even this far into the tour, could be seen wearing a conductor's hat at more than one point during "The Way Up."
Nando Lauriawho didn't participate on the recording of the The Way Up, but is another indispensable member of the touring groupnever receives any form of solo recognition; but watching him throughout the show, his contribution became clear. While Maret and Vu could be found playing guitars at various points in the performance, it's Lauria who Metheny trusts with key and challenging parts that, logistically, he can't play himself. Lauria, who will return to Brazil following the conclusion of the tour, has a recording project planned that hopefully will see him reach a larger audience.
Following the wonderfully understated conclusion to "The Way Up"which received an overwhelming ovation from the crowdthe musicians launched into the second part of their three-hour performance. As before, Metheny deconstructed the group into a variety of subsetsa frighteningly up-tempo duet with Sanchez of "(Go) Get It," a tender duet with Maret on "Always and Forever," a trio version of "James" with Sanchez and Rodby, and a quartet version of "Lone Jack" that, with Mays added, turned into a powerful solo spot for Sanchez following a lengthy tradeoff between Metheny and Mays. Mays and Metheny also turned in an achingly beautiful version of "Farmer's Trust," with Mays' opening solo incorporating triggered synthesizer sounds from his midi-ed Steinway piano and Rodby entering for the end theme.
One song that never seems to get stale is "Are You Going With Me?," from '83's Offramp As has been the case since the group's Speaking of Now tour in '02, Metheny opened the piece as a duet blending his lush 42-string Pikasso guitar and Vu's textural trumpet. Vu's work just keeps getting stronger. Blending a variety of sound processing with a clearly modernistic approach that nevertheless demonstrates clear reverence for precedent, Vu is a player who has received broader recognition through his association over the past four years with Metheny. And when the entire group entered, Maret's solo tradeoffs with Mays became another highlight of the show, before Metheny delivered one of his high-powered guitar synthesizer solos that yet again drew a huge ovation from the crowd.
Closing the marathon set with "Minuano (Six-Eight)," it became clear that the group wouldn't be able to leave without an encore. "Song For Bilbao" gave Metheny, Mays, Maret, Vu, and Sanchez one last opportunity to raise the bar. Vu's solo, in particular, demonstrated a more developed sense of narrative than heard earlier in the tour, as did Maret's.