Metheny Mehldau: Quartet (2007)
Distinguished musicians playing and recording together tells you that the sky will be the limit for its potential. The collaboration between guitarist Pat Metheny and piano prodigy Brad Mehldau was so fruitful that the initial session that gave us the brilliant Mehldau/Metheny duo album, also produced Quartet, with Mehldau's standard Trio joining forces.
The previous duo release gave ample evidence of the two musicians' empathy, sensitivity, and subtlety. It also provided a sneak preview of Quartet, with Larry bassist Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard playing on two tracks. Still, Quartet is not exclusively an album of a quartet playing, as there are several notable duet tracks present.
With so much attention given to detail, the interplay and collaboration between these musicians is fabulous. Impeccable, tasteful, and flawlessly executed, the quartet allows for some combustible moments as both players compliment each other superbly. As with the previous release (and most of Metheny's releases) melody reigns supreme. Whether as a duo or with the band, both musicians are equally adept at lead or rhythm and are among the most melodic musicians on their instruments.
The first track, "A Night Away," steals from both musicians' worlds and combines almost everything I like about this music and particularly these musicians. It has a great theme and is played with great energy. The duo tracks have a rather different feeling, when compared with the first release. It seems that they are more accomplished and fit well within the quartet surrounding. "The Sound of Water" features Metheny's 42 string Picasso guitar taking a layered approach, with its shimmering harp sounds and lush guitarscapes over romantic piano sounds.
But Quartet is not a set of solos with other instrumentalists passively watching. The band plays with great cohesion and that is due in great part to Ballard, whose playing gives a clear example of varied pacing and dynamics. His pounding and Larry Grenadier's pulsating bass lines have untethered Metheny and Mehldau to come up with interesting figures.
The album is full of magical moments such as these. There is warmth and sensibility on "Don't Wait" and "Long Before"; mystic tinges on "Secret Beach"; and Latino influences on "En la Terra Que No Olvida" and "Santa Cruz Slacker."
Metheny has always had a knack for choosing interesting collaborators, and his collaborations are equally important as his solo outings. There are moments when one wishes for a fifth voice within this highly explosive ensemble just to break loose some of the already heard sounds and approaches. Lyrical and sensitive, this is more than just another super jam. It's an excellent album, full of rich textures, cinematic in the best sense and, above all, a musical conversation taken to new heights.
Track Listing: Night Away; Sound of Water; Fear and Trembling; So Much Music Everywhere; Towards the Light; Long Before; La Tierra Que No Olvida; Santa Cruz Slacker; Secret Beach; Silent Movie; Marta's Theme (from Passagio per il Paradiso).
Personnel: Pat Metheny: electric guitar, 42-string Pikasso guitar (2), acoustic guitar (4), guitar synth (5,9); Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.