Pat Metheny

Selected Recordings (Rarum IX)

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The Rarum series on the ECM label is unique in that it issues "best-of" compilations picked by the artists themselves. While this can be a double-edged sword (oftentimes what an artist and his or her own fans enjoy are two different things), in this case it turns out to be a blessing. Metheny is obviously a fine judge of his own work, both from artistic and popular points of view. The selections are accompanied by an album-by-album overview by Metheny in the liner notes. This set begins with the title track -- one from his first outing for the label, "Bright Size Life," accompanied by drummer Bob Moses, with the late Jaco Pastorius on bass. The trademark fluidity and euphoria in Metheny's sound is everywhere evident, and though it has evolved considerably form this early period, it has never lost its ring, its beautiful rounded engagement with all that is warm and open. Following this with "Phase Dance," from the first Pat Metheny Group album, and then the title cut from New Chautauqua, is easily a rallying of the "hits", so to speak. The inclusion of "Airstream" form American Garage signals the end of Metheny's first period as a leader. Here, the melodies once so close harmonically to scalar sources begin to turn in on themselves and become subtler. When "Everyday (I Thank You)," appears, with Michael Brecker, Jack DeJohnette, and Charlie Haden in tow, Metheny's restlessness as a composer makes itself evident. Over 13 minutes, the dynamics and pastoral elegance at its heart are nothing short of sublime. And it gets deeper and wider from here, with the inclusion of "It's for You," from As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, the folk-jazz masterpiece done by Metheny with keyboardist Lyle Mays. The set winds itself out into the expanses of time and space with "Are You Going With Me," from Travels, the title cut from First Circle featuring current drummer Paul Werteco, and finally a wind back to the source inspiration material with his gorgeous cover of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," featuring the Coleman quartet's rhythm section of Billy Higgins and Haden. In all, this is a glorious hour-plus of music and emotions. It's magical, mysterious, and deeply moving. It would be hard to choose a better "best-of " than this.

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