Released earlier this week Unity Band, the first stirrings of Pat Metheny’s new acoustic quartet, a band of the great Missourian’s that features the presence of saxophone for the first time in many years, is the sort of album that does not come along every day.
Metheny, while dazzling of late with his Orchestrion album and the charming if a little low-key What’s It All About (the spooky orchestrion makes a brief cameo on Unity Band), his output on the last two albums could be seen as part of a holding pattern to partly prove a point firstly technologically and secondly in terms of interpreting pop tunes. Unity Band is a more organic concept, and introduces two big talents: one fully formed and majestic in Chris Potter; the other, in Ben Williams, a player still on his way, but with sky high prospects and already displaying significant character on the double bass. Metheny has already started touring the band in Europe but here in the UK we’ll have to wait until 8 July to hear the Unity Band in the flesh, and what a prospect that is.
One thing that has struck me in following Metheny in recent years is: whatever happened to Lyle Mays? With the Pat Metheny Group parked in the (presumably American) garage, his writing talents with Metheny should not be underestimated, and his keyboards always added a unique flavour to PMG shows even if his solo albums invariably disappointed.
The Unity Band of course is completed by Metheny’s long time trio drummer Antonio Sánchez who we’ve never quite heard enough of in the UK as the trio with Pat, Antonio and Christian McBride never toured here. Now’s the time for him to shine as well.