Reviewed by Tony Villecco
On Tuesday (Oct. 19), the Anderson Center at Binghamton University presented jazz musician Pat Metheny. Although I admit I attended with some curiosity (I had not heard this artist prior) and while my expertise is more in classical music, I left with the realization that this was a talent so unique and so committed, it would have been shameful to miss this event.
That said, WOW!
Metheny has had a successful career in the music scene since 1974. While his roots were in the typical jazz stylings of any aspiring performer, Metheny, according to his website, had “a way of playing and improvising that was modern in conception but grounded deeply in the jazz tradition of melody, swing, and the blues.”
The curtain rose on a dimly-lit stage, bathed in blue light. Metheny, a tall man with a trademark crop of hair, burst onto the stage to thunderous applause. (This was one of the fullest houses I have seen in some time at the center). Starting with a slow and evocative piece on solo guitar, Metheny was the epitome of an artist in full command of his art. Here existed a deep emotional pull between musician and instrument.
After two more sets of similar style — his compositions are all original — Metheny brought out another guitar that resembled some sort of beautiful Asian bird, its steel shining with what appeared a wing-like extension and at least three other fret boards. Now bathed in red light, the stage seemed to be basking in a setting sun.
The already frenzied audience went crazy as another curtain was lifted and — voila! — the stage was entirely lit up with instruments and boards, drums, bells and whistles, cymbals, you name it. This was a self-made jazz orchestra which Metheny controlled as the sole musician; an awe-inspiring sensory delight of music, color, light and sounds. This alone made one realize just how far technology has invaded the music world, from the computer-generated, “midi” techno, self-programmed compositions to the ability to “produce,” in effect, a full orchestra minus the 40 other human musicians. A highlight was the little toy monkey who banged his tiny cymbals in perfect rhythm.
Hence, the concert titled appropriately “The Orchestrion Tour.” I would invite any lover of jazz,to discover (if you haven’t already) this inspired and inventive musician, live or on recording. Hearing the compositions is testament alone to this multi-Grammy Award-winning artist, but to see how this all unfolds on stage is, indeed, jaw dropping.