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Pat Metheny Group: Speaking of Now Live in Japan

CJ Shearn

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Got this a few days back, here is my review.

The SoN DVD is without a doubt the ultimate PMG video document thus far. maybe ranked with Secret Story and the Parallel Realities DVD's as the best Metheny live DVD's....... I know it sounds like hyperbole but I'm sure like any Pathead I've watched all the DVD's to death, but there is a real sense of "going for broke" and totally inspired highs that's never been seen/heard on any PMG DVD yet For example, Pat takes chorus after chorus on "How Insensitive" as if he were to never play it again, there are ideas in there that I've never heard, it's almost as if we are in a virtual continuation of "Trio Live" where Pat delivered some of his freshest playing in years. Antonio just feeds off of Pat in a way that reminds me of classic Blue Note hard bop sides and how great drummers like Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey responded to soloists intuitively raising the heat level. Compare this to "Insensitive" on Secret Story live, another great version, and how Wertico's drumming, Armando Marcal, Steve Rodby combine to form a consistent groove behind Pat for his ideas. The busyness of Sanchez just brings Pat to a whole other level and the interplay to the point where Pat partakes in all the "innuendos and slang" that he enjoys with absolutely top craft players. Another aspect that makes the DVD simply incredible is that it seems when jazz musicians play in front of a Japanese audience they exhibit and knowledge and critical listening ability that allows the players just to let go of any inhibitions, time constraints, ultimately leading them to play their most ambitious ideas. This is not like their Austin City Limits appearance, these guys really stretch which is especially apparent on "The Gathering Sky" "Proof" and "Song For Bilbao". Antonio in particular on "Sky" during his now immortalized for all to see and for drummers to analyze painstakingly, features some absolutely insane stuff. it's not just a chops fest. this man's ability to make a coherent logical melodic statement on the drums, completely his own........ yet obviously rooted in both the approaches of Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams' very distinctive ways of making melody with their kits....... at one point Antonio gets an astonishing combination of three latin polyrhythms at once...... (and wouldn't it be fun if he and Dave Weckl just threw down? ;-) ) Richard Bona, what is there to say? a great musician............... his vocals on "You" are mesmerizing, his solo intro to "On Her Way" with his African-funk choir of mini Bona's is something that will imprint the melodic riff he creates in your head for days...........he also has a laugh out loud moment on "Bilbao" where he quotes "Rhythm-a-ning" in his solo, I'm surprised he and Pat didn't engage in a battle of bebop quotes. Cuong Vu's "Scrap Metal" feature is painted with eerie tone colors, electric whites, muted blues and reds...... I really need to get his own albums. Are You Going With Me is only the duet portion with Pat and Cuong and we don't hear the familiar snare drum hits into bah buh bah buh bah bah buh bah buh bah buh......... but it works surprisingly well as a separate entity from what we all love.

Lyle Mays has made some of the finest statements of recent years on this DVD, "Proof" has him really engaging with the harmony in his left hand, and really swinging, his solo approaches Herbie Hancock intensity to these ears. And on Bilbao, his self made big band section is great..... that was really cool when I saw them live also. "The Roots of Coincedence" surpasses the original and ID Live versions because the vibe is just so different. Part of that is because Antonio brings a real post Tony Williams feel to the groove right before Pat's solo, and also because Antonio is part of my generation (well, close to, I'm 22) he has managed to fuse the influences of popular music seamlessly into his jazz playing, after all he started as a rock drummer. He also brings an authentic drum and bass feeling, whereas Wertico's rhythmic feel was more like rock super drummer turned bebopper =) Pat begins his solo with a phrase which includes a favorite lick but it's used in combination with a descending chromatic phrase that morphs it into something totally new.

After several viewings (and more to come)I still stand by my statement that this is the best PMG yet made, I could listen to it with the TV off like a live album but it's something that just needs to be watched.


Last Train Home

(Go) Get It

As It Is


How Insensitive

The Gathering Sky


On Her Way Intro (Richard Bona improvisation)

On Her Way

A Place In The World

Scrap Metal

Another Life

Are You Going With Me? (prelude)

The Roots of Coincedence

Map Of the World

In Her Family

Song For Bilbao

runtime: 2 hrs and 15 mins.

p.s. Pat triggers stuff on "Roots" but he no longer uses the Synclavier portion of that Roland guitar anymore, but appears to still dial in on that panel, does that GK-2 A pick up work in conjunction with that? anyone? Joe G.?

Edited by CJ Shearn
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Hey CJ, thanks for posting that! I wish we could hang out and watch it together (I don't even have a DVD player yet :w ).

Re: Pat's setup for triggering sounds; I have no idea. He does that in As It Is also, where the electric sitar sound is heard in the melody. Might have to consult the experts at the American Garage.

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yeah Joe, the sitar sound on "As It Is" seems to sound like the studio one, it's noticeable that it's probably a sequence because the sitar sound doesn't trigger when he does that little fill of harmonics during the first half of the melody. It similar to how the sitar sound is used on "Facing West" from the Secret Story video (the DVD is on it's way to me) There's no 2nd cord going through Pat's blonde Ibanez PM 20 prototype, which incidentally if you don't look closely, you'd think he dusted the Gibson off again, the way the PM 20 is engineered on the record makes it sound like the ES 175, but on this DVD it has a thicker bottom. Pat's black PM 100 has a synth trigger cord in it tho, which you see him triggering on the ID Live video by turning the extra black knobs built it. I never hit the Garage to post anymore, it gets too idiotic.

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Hmm, interesting. I usually don't delve into his setup too much, because I couldn't possibly afford the type of equipment options that he can.

I know what you mean about the AG. It's deterioration is probably unavoidable given the fact that it's all centered around Pat and the Group. A board like this is much more diverse and healthy. :)

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Kari, I ordered SoN Live through Audiophile Imports. I had previously posted that they had a fiasco w/ poor customer service but I got a very nice email from their president w/ a sincere apology, my items arrived very shortly thereafter. ID Live is a good DVD, it makes that music comes alive, particularly outstanding are the versions of "A Story Within a Story" (love that funk groove) "Heat of the Day" and "September Fifteenth". Pat has a great solo on "Minuano" as well. ID Live suffers visually from overproduced video, in fact it was never supposed to be released because it was only shot with two cameras and it was eventually released b/c someone at Pioneer liked what Steve Rodby did with the video. However there is nothing on any of the DVD's as the vibe captured on SoN Live, everybody is just on, whether or not it was because they were infront of a Japanese crowd and willing to get their hands dirty because the audience was very knowlegeable, but also they were being recorded for six shows in two days. they played 3 concerts in one day for that video shoot. They were probably wanting to get the freshest ideas in each take possible. SoN Live also succeeds where the other PMG DVD's fail: you are getting nearly a complete show at 2 hours and 15 minutes, and seamlessly edited for continuity. The other PMG DVD's are album specific, containing virtually all of the new material with a few classics, this features the right balance struck. If you are interested in my opinion of other Metheny DVD's here's how I rate them, although the consistency of the music makes it very hard for a true rating, each DVD has some great moments and unexpected surprises.

tied for 1st......... Speaking of Now, Live in Japan, Secret Story Live and DeJohnette/Hancock/Holland/Metheny Live in Concert. The latter is a superb live gig from Jack's Parallel Realities tour, that features IMO, some of the best Hancock I own.

2nd. More Travels, only available on Japanese DVD (which I have) is a long form music video featuring the classic Letter From Home era line up. This video was the best PMG document prior to SoN Live. There is eye popping camera work during Pat's solo on "Have You Heard". Also included is a version of "Half Life of Absolution" that is superior to the version on "The Road to You" live album, ditto to "Third Wind". Unfortunately it's only available on VHS here in the States and my VHS copy has badly distorted hotly mastered sound. The sound on the Japanese DVD is incredible tho, lots of dynamics, some details I never heard before, and very clean.

3rd. We Live Here Live in Japan. Contains some excellent versions of the WLH material, like "Episode D'Azur" with Lyle's intro, and "To the End of the World". Unfortunately the U.S. version has some real editing issues which reportedly aren't there in the Japanese version and there are interviews dispersed between the music you don't wanna watch more than once. Do we really wanna hear about Paul Wertico's baby making with his wife? :P Oh yeah, the version of Scrap Metal gets absolutely obliterated by the one on SoN Live but it's nice to have a different take investigating another area of the song.

4th, ID Live. See comments above. Have a good 4th everyone :party:

Edited by CJ Shearn
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