From This Place
Expanding on the strength of his touring quartet with pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Antonio Sanchez on From This Place, guitar master Pat Metheny adds the lush yet never overpowering sound of the Hollywood Studio Symphony led by Joel McNeely, as well as Luis Conte on additional percussion. It’s another departure in a career full of them. The quartet’s road gigs focused mainly on great songs from Metheny’s past, but the 10 tracks here are entirely new, with refined, impressionistic orchestral arrangements provided by seasoned veterans Alan Broadbent and Gil Goldstein. Almost straight through, the foreground voice is Metheny’s classic clean hollow-body guitar sound, though “Same River” incorporates the wailing Roland GR synth guitar and also the sitar-guitar sound heard long ago on “Last Train Home.” Metheny’s poetic nylon-string acoustic surfaces on the quietly intense Meshell Ndegeocello collaboration “From This Place” (written immediately after the 2016 US election) as well as “The Past in Us,” featuring Gregoire Maret on harmonica (recalling his days as a Pat Metheny Group member on The Way Up). In particular, Metheny’s writing on “Pathmaker” and the topical leadoff track “America Undefined” is next-level—intricate and ambitious, full of breath and melody, beautifully realized by a band at peak powers.