It Starts When We Disappear
Better Days Ahead
Bright Size Life
Pat Metheny’s Side-Eye is an adaptable configuration unlike any of his previous projects, but with strong continuities in terms of repertoire and aesthetics. In essence it’s an organ trio, albeit one for the 21st century, with the young James Francies playing piano and synths and keyboard bass, creating a wealth of texture alongside the eminent guitarist. Metheny has deliberately kept the Side-Eye drum chair in flux, showcasing Anwar Marshall, Nate Smith, and Joe Dyson along the way, but on this live album it’s the superb Marcus Gilmore, whose credits include the Vijay Iyer Trio, Chick Corea, and many more (he happens to be the grandson of drum legend and close Metheny associate Roy Haynes).
Metheny takes the opportunity with Side-Eye to revisit a wide cross-section of his repertoire, remaking it entirely with new cutting-edge collaborators. It seems the case that “Bright Size Life” and “Sirabhorn,” two cuts from his epochal 1976 debut, are heard here for the first time with a keyboardist—in which case Francies is the ideal trailblazer, with limitless harmonic and sonic resources. Ornette Coleman’s “Turnaround,” a showpiece for Metheny’s Rejoicing trio with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, sets another precedent: Coleman’s music almost never included piano, but Francies, on acoustic throughout, swings hard on this midtempo blues, while Metheny strums a hip chordal accompaniment at low volume (something the late Jim Hall would do). The Hammond organ soul-jazz element comes out on “Timeline,” a Metheny piece from the late Michael Brecker’s 1999 release Time Is of the Essence, notched up in tempo.
There is also a slower, beautifully chilled-out version of “Better Days Ahead” from Letter From Home, and a new, rock-infused blowout “Lodger,” inspired by fellow guitarist Adam Rogers. The expansive opener and closer, “It Starts When We Disappear” and “Zenith Blue,” respectively, are at once compositionally elaborate and suffused with Metheny’s distinctive melodic expression.