I went to see the Pat Metheny Unity Group play at the Ferst Center on the Georgia Tech campus. What a great show! Along with 3 encores the band played nearly 3 hours – for a mere $59. Seems like one of the best deals I’ve had recently.
Pat opened the show solo on the Pikasso guitar. As he started a new song he was joined by Ben Williams (bass), Chris Potter (woodwinds) and my man Antonio Sanchez (drums). They played several songs off of the Unity Band release including Roof Dogs – one of my favorites off that effort. They also did a rendition of James – this was the first time I think I heard Pat do this live. Pat then talked about the transition from the Unity Band to the Unity Group, introduced Giulio Carmassi (on piano and vocals), and launched into the new release Kin(←→). Up to this point the robots had been asleep. Pat now woke them up and they accompanied every song through the end of the show at this point. They played several songs. It seems like a custom now with Pat to play a song with each member of the band individually. Finally, they ended the concert with Have You Heard. Three encores ensued: on the first they played ‘Are You Going With Me’ with Chris Potter on his alto flute, the second song which I can’t remember now and finally solo Baritone guitar from Pat playing a melody including ‘This is not America’.
Pat’s playing was his customary brilliance as was Antonio. Antonio has added a new sound to his set – sounded almost like my old ribbon crasher. He has also given up the left foot cow bell for a tambourine – which I have to say is a better mix with the music. I spent about half the time on the binoculars watching (and perhaps wishing I could be) him.
The two players that I have much more respect now are Chris and Ben. Chris’s reed work – on tenor and soprano saxes, flutes, bass clarinet and even guitar on Rise Up – is simply exceptional. Ben Williams playing seemed to stand out much more than when I saw him a couple of years ago. It’s so funny watching him – he looks like an overgrown teenager.
He did a couple of solos that had me weeping. Giulio’s piano and vocals added a welcome familiar touch to the music but I thought it was interesting he was way back on the stage – sort of like a guest. We’ll see if he continues on with Pat – I certainly like what he’s done for the group – especially the variety of instruments he plays on the recording.
And then there is the Orchestrion. For this incarnation Pat brought along the bottles (my favorite), several bells / xylophone, a large marimba (with the back end lifted up so you could watch it play), assorted percussion and other noise makers. It really adds a lot of complexity, generally pretty subtle, and a ‘lush’ quality to the tracks. I dig that he’s continued to use it since the Orchestrion album came out in 2010.
I love the sound this new band has – similar in some ways to the old PMG (it was nice to hear Piano again) – but in other ways very different. One thing for sure is that the incorporation of the Orchestrion and Chris Potters woodwinds adds many new textures. In some ways it was more like The Way Up than older PMG efforts. Some of the new compositions have a very new feel to them. That’s what I love about Pat’s music over the years – always evolving but with that immediately recognizable ‘Pat’ sound.