Pat Metheny is now over 35 years into his career. He has recorded dozens of albums, toured incessantly, and taken part in countless side projects. He is rightly considered one of the best jazz guitarists in the world and his seventeen Grammy Awards and millions of albums sold are a testament to that fact. He has constantly pushed the limits of jazz, his instrument, and of sound in general which brings us to his latest project.
Orchestrion is a combination of the old and new. An Orchestrion is a musical device invented to create sound. It’s roots go back to the mid-19th century and it reached its peak in the early 20th century. It is a machine that through the use of paper rolls, cylinders, and gravity creates an orchestral sound. Just think of an old player piano and let your mind expand on the image. Now combine it all with the technology of today.
What it all comes down too is Pat Metheny has created a true solo album. He has found the perfect vehicle to produce the background sound for his guitar improvisations. When the musical foundation is programmed in advance, it allows him a comfort zone to take off on the type of guitar excursions which have demonstrated his genius.
However an album is created, it ultimately all comes down to the music. The title song is probably the most ambitious track as it stretches close to fifteen minutes. A piano sound meshes perfectly with his guitar runs. The melody meanders and twists but ultimately returns to its origins. “Expansion” is the closest track to a traditional jazz sound. Each note has a clarity and purpose and is a nice example of his dexterity and vision. “Soul Search” is easy, smooth and moody as it just invades the senses. It proves that you don’t have to be flashy to be good.
The five lengthy tracks are all vehicles for him to explore his latest musical vision. He has scheduled a lengthy tour in support of this album which should be an audio and visual experience as the Orchestrion returns to the stage.
Pat Metheny has produced a visionary, interesting, and ultimately satisfying album. He has proven that good music is many times created by taking chances.