The first truly solo record from Pat Metheny, playing acoustic baritone guitar on a...
Peter Marsh 2002
For someone so commercially successful (at least in jazz terms), Pat Metheny takes a lot of risks. It's dificult to imagine someone like Larry Carlton hooking up with Ornette Coleman, Steve Reich or Derek Bailey, or releasing anything as scabrous as Zero Tolerance for Silence.
Though this lovely record is nowhere near as left field as some of those projects, it's miles away from the airbrushed sheen of the Pat Metheny Group. One Quiet Night finds Pat on his own with a baritone guitar (basically an acoustic guitar in an extended 'Nashville' tuning). Recorded mostly at home, solo with a single mic (the first time he's done a truly 'solo' record), it's an unsurprisingly intimate, hushed affair. There are a few covers; Keith Jarrett's 'My Song", Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why" and most suprisingly, Gerry and the Pacemakers' "Ferry Cross The Mersey'. The rest are Metheny originals; some improvised, some familiar ("Last Train Home").
The mood is reminiscent of the countrified pastoralism of the early New Chautauqua and Beyond the Missouri Sky, Pat's collaboration with bassist Charlie Haden. Like fellow guitarist Bill Frisell, there's always been a lot of country and folk in his playing, though this isn't a genre 'Americana' record in the way that some of Frisell's recent efforts have been. This is more like Chet Atkins playing Paul Bley (or maybe the other way round).
What's unique aboutMetheny is his simultaneous ability to keep thousands of wannabe guitarists fixed intently on each chord substitution, while actually making music that communicates and, more importantly, provokes emotional response. His reading of "Ferry Cross the Mersey" is a case in point. Subtle shifts and modulations bring out new beauties and tensions in what is essentially a pretty simple tune, while his careful deployment of the extended range of his instrument results in an almost pianistic range. Whatever, it's lovely.
Late at night, with the rain beating against the windows, this is the kind of record that can send you to bed feeling that all's right with the world. In times like these, that's no bad thing.