Speaking of Now finds guitarist Metheny leading a retooled Pat Metheny Group; in addition to longtime core members, keyboardist Lyle Mays and bassist Steve Rodby, the Group now includes drummer Antonio Sanchez, trumpeter/vocalist Cuong Vu, and Richard Bona, who's best known as a bassist, but who functions primarily as the Group's percussionist/vocalist. The result is an exquisite album that features fresh new musical perspectives while losing none of the Group's familiar wide-ranging, melodic, always accessible sound. Most of the tracks on Speaking of Now were composed by Metheny and his longtime collaborator Mays, although three tracks were composed solely by Metheny. There's a buoyant feel to this album that is not to be confused with lightness. This is complex, intricately detailed music that reveals additional layers with each listening. Metheny seems to delight in discovering the myriad means by which his prodigiously accomplished bandmembers can provide coloration to the compositions, both within the larger group and in solo spotlights. Sanchez's rhythmic agility and sensitivity is featured throughout, particularly on "The Gathering Sky," which begins as a sparkling, piano-led number and then transforms into a grooving band jam. One of the album's many solo highlights comes during "Proof," where Vu turns in a poignantly lyrical trumpet solo that is followed by an electrifying, steadily intensifying solo by Mays. Vocals have long been part of the Metheny Group sound, but now he is utilizing them in new ways; "Another Life" opens with Bona and Vu harmonizing on a chorale that leads into the artist's delicate acoustic guitar work, while Bona provides sweet vocalizing over Metheny's guitar on the beautiful, soaring "You." Every track on Speaking of Now possesses a distinct beauty and eloquence. This is a superb offering that is not to be missed.
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AllMusic Review by Lucy Tauss