Pat Metheny Unity Group
Kin opens as this nine track recording means to continue, with a glorious juxtaposition of some of the greatest contemporary American jazz musicians, uplifting and soaring with forzando solos, with the tempo alternating at a rate of knots.
The Metheny sound on Kin is anchored by the drums and cajon of percussionist Antonio Sanchez, a rather American-Central American beat, and it is compelling (Day One) to listen to Metheny’s driven guitar interact with Sanchez, both long time collaborators, of course.
Metheny assembled Unity Group two years ago from a trio of musicians on top of their game: Sanchez, Chris Potter on sax and Ben Williams on bass. Having worked on solo projects with Brad Mehldau, Steve Reich and Ornette Coleman, experimenting on the outer fringes of jazz and classical, Metheny was committed to what he hadn’t done in over thirty years: he recorded with a band which also highlighted the tenor sax of Potter.
The resulting recording, Unity Band, rapid-fire post-bop cascades, grabbed Metheny his twentieth Grammy. With the tap turned on, he couldn’t turn it off. In less than a year the group has furnished their second recording, Kin, which is an extension of the virtuosity of the first album and, if anything, is even more incandescent.
Metheny is on fire but the majority of the tracks (Rise Up and Kqu )are so adroitly composed that the tapestry is woven at long intervals with solos from Potter, Sanchez and the measured Williams.
You must remember that this quartet played over a hundred concerts in a single year after Unity Band was released, and it is as tight a group as you will get.
Metheny being Metheny, Kin had to push the Unity Group boat further out, and to this end he was smart enough to add multi instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi, and the result is a familiar sound, but in fifth gear.
On Kin, Carmassi plays a dozen instruments, and throws some vocals into the mix, so that what separates Unity Band and Kin is scale: the latter has an orchestral feel to it, as if Edwin Church forsook his easel and started a band.
The influences are many, but predominantly American, where the West meets the East, with the tight focus of a quartet, but the unlimited scope of a small orchestra, which is why Carmassi was brought in. Magical.