Pat Metheny – What’s It All About – Nonesuch

by | Jul 3, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Pat Metheny – What’s It All About – Nonesuch 527912-2, 55:53 ****½:

(Pat Metheny, solo guitar (baritone, 42 String ‘Pikasso‘, six string, and nylon string))

Pat Metheny has recorded over 40 albums under his own name, yet his latest, What’s It All About, is the first issue that did not have at least one original track. Pat has the opportunity here to interpret ten well known songs in a solo setting. For this release Pat largely concentrates on his baritone guitar, which he has used more and more since his Grammy winning 2001 solo CD, One Quiet Night.

What makes his latest CD special is that he makes familiar popular songs that most listeners will recognize come alive. The familiar melody is there but Pat adds his own interpretation that opens a “re-listening” experience.  Using tunings between A-flat and C, Pat brings subtle changes to the harmonies as he explores the hidden nuances of songs that we know, but can now appreciate in a new manner.

Hearing Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence” on the 42-string Pikasso guitar is a revelation as Pat’s guitar gives a Japanese koto touch as its harp-like strings sing. The melody is taken in a luxuriously slow pace and each note with tremolo and trills floating over and around you. “Cherish” follows – and although its lyrics seemed trite to me when it came out by The Association – in Metheny’s hands the melody brings back warm feelings. You’ll find yourself listening intently, waiting for how Metheny reignites an appreciation for the tune sans lyrics. You get the feeling of putting on a well-worn piece of clothing that you had not appreciated before, but now know its worth.

Burt Bacharach’s “Alfie” is taken at minimalist pace and each strum of the baritone guitar caresses the melody. It is exquisite and you’d swear there was another guitar accompanying Pat as the notes float in and out of your consciousness. The baritone guitar has such a purity and sweetness that with a late night listen, with the lights out, a feeling of pure ecstasy comes over you.

Recorded on a single night in February, 2011, at Pat’s home studio, and mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, the acoustics here are stunning-as good as you’ll find on a standard CD issue.

“Pipeline” gets a flamenco-like reading on the six string guitar, and you fully expect to hear dancers madly tapping on a wooden floor, yet it is only Pat on a tear. Jobim’s “Garota De Ipanema” strays from the familiar melody, played at “half-speed” and the reverberations have time to fully set in.

The Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays” in most instances would be a snorer, but not here. You know the melody from countless radio plays but Pat makes its hidden melodic treasures escape. In 1971 it went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and I thought it could not leave the radio fast enough. Metheny takes advantage of its familiarity to make it sound relevant to me for the first time. (Let’s keep the lyrics hidden, though..)

Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘66 had a hit with Henry Mancini’s “Slow Hot Wind” and Metheny takes the melody inward and gives it a neo-classical performance.  The last two tracks, “Betcha By Golly Wow” and The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” both special to me when they were released, are highlights of the CD. The former jumps out at you clear as a bell with memories of its sweet soul credentials, and the Beatles’ classic has its bossa nova overtones brought out on Metheny’s nylon string guitar.

Purchase of What’s It All About will be a sure thing for Metheny’s legend of fans. Mood music fans should jump on board, and radio play will add many more sales. This CD has Grammy written all over it…

The Sound of Silence, Cherish, Alfie, Pipeline, Garota De Ipanema, Rainy Days and Mondays, That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be, Slow Hot Wind, Betcha By Golly Wow, And I Love Her

— Jeff Krow

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