Mixing up his pitches just to keep his fans off balance as always, Metheny returns to the strict jazz-guitar trio format for the first time in a decade, in league with a couple of combative, unintimidated partners.
At the age of 45, Metheny leaves no doubt that he has become a masterful jazz player, thoroughly at home with even the most convoluted bebop licks ("What Do You Want?") yet still as open as ever to ideas outside the narrow mainstream, as illustrated in the country-western-tinged phrasing on "The Sun in Montreal." Bassist Larry Grenadier propels his own voice prominently into the texture, even when walking the fours, and drummer Bill Stewart does not hesitate to go against the grain of Metheny's ideas.
There is a slow, almost bossa nova-like take on "Giant Steps" that works unexpectedly well; it actually becomes a lyrical, gliding thing. Bye Bye Birdie's "Got a Lot of Livin' to Do" gets a rare contemporary cover, and why not? it's a good tune that holds up, even when fractured as creatively as it is here. There are also a few songs on acoustic guitar that sound like embryonic soundtrack material: "Just Like the Day," "We Had a Sister," and "Travels," the latter being Metheny's first studio recording of a tune that was recorded live 17 years before. Metheny's brigade of jazz buffs will savor this.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
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