Pat Metheny – The Unity Sessions, Blu-ray (2015)

Pat Metheny – The Unity Sessions, Blu-ray (2015)

Cast: Pat Metheny – electric/acoustic guitars, guitar synth; electronics, orchestrations; Chris Potter – tenpr saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, flute, guitar; Antonio Sanchez – drums, cajon; Ben Williams – acoustic/electric bass; Giulio Carmassi – piano, flugelhorn, whistling, synth, vocals)
Director: Matthew Beighley
Video: 1.78:1 for 1080p HD, color
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; PCM 2.0 Stereo
TrackList: Genealogy; I On Day One; This Belongs To You; Roofdogs; Come And See; Kin; Born; Rise Up; Adagia; Sign Of The Season; Go Get It; Cherokee; Police People; Two Folk Songs (#1); Medley; Bonus Interview
Studio: Eagle Rock/Universal Music Group EVB335169 [9/18/15]
Length: 132 minutes
Ratings: Audio ****1/2  Video ****  Overall ****                           

Pat Metheny has amassed an impressive resume as a musician. From his early association with Berklee School Of Music, he worked with vibraphonist Gary Burton. Over his career, Metheny has collaborated with many jazz artists. But his greatest impact has been as a band leader. In the early seventies, he began recording as The Pat Metheny Group. This began a long-term musical association with keyboardist Lyle Mays. Their albums were successful and bridged a variety of genres, including straight ahead jazz, Latin and fusion.  Releases like Watercolors, American Garage, As Falls Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls and Off Ramp were critical and commercial successes. His instrumental and experimental prowess extends to 6-string, 12-string, and synthesized guitar. His electronic orchestration has been groundbreaking, and each project is different than the previous ones. To date, Metheny has garnered an astounding 20 Grammys.

For his latest project, Pat MethenyThe Unity Sessions, the guitarist has released a “no audience” performance featuring a musical retrospective. This film is unique, due to the sole focus on the players. The set opens with an extemporary intro (“Genealogy”) that segues into a spacey beginning to “One Day One”. The Latin-infused jam has rhythmic clapping and a guitar/tenor unison that builds in hypnotic tempo. Each song varies in style. “This Belongs To You” has a meditative guitar, joined by sax, and “Roofdogs” is edgier fusion with funky bass riffs, soprano saxophone and synth guitar..

Metheny’s collection of instruments is awe-inspiring. On “Come And See”, he utilizes a custom oversize guitar that has four sets of strings and resembles a harp at times. The shimmering tones are prominent. There are several quieter moments that resonate. “Born” has a pastoral, hymn-like feel and the solo acoustic “Adagio” unfolds with classical elegance. Metheny and his band mates exhibit chemistry. He does a duet with drummer Antonio Sanchez that has a free-form fusion. That is followed by a snappy pairing with saxophonist Chris Potter on the Ray Noble classic, “Cherokee”. In hard-driving fashion the group energizes “Two Folk Songs”, merging New Age and up tempo jazz. In appropriate context, the set closes with an extended lyrical solo guitar performance, “Medley”. All of the complex, virtuosic textures that inhabit Metheny’s music are on full display.

The quality of the blu-ray transfer is excellent. The close ups of the instrumentalists are precise and concentrate on fingering techniques. There is atmospheric stage lighting that is not interrupted by obligatory audience footage. Both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 offer a dynamic sound range that emphasizes all musical shades, even hushed cymbals. The guitars are captured with clarity and vibrancy. There is a bonus interview with the band members detailing their artistic commitment.

—Robbie Gerson

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