Monday, April 19, 2010
Review: Mike Metheny's 60.1
I may never forgive Mike Metheny for making my life a living hell.
The opening track of 60.1, his new album, may be the most infuriating earworm I've ever encountered. It's as if the tormented ghost of Raymond Scott had assumed control of the USC Marching Trojans.
The deliberately annoying march has taken up unwelcome residency in my cranium for the past two weeks. Metheny named the piece "Dubious Melody," but "Crime Against Humanity" would be be a more appropriate title.
It takes enormous talent to be so maliciously awful. At this late date, jazz fans could be forgiven for failing to remember that Metheny was once a major label recording artist and had served as a faculty member at Boston's Berklee College of Music. While Metheny has returned to Missouri and jazz's fortunes have waned, Metheny's prodigious musical gifts have not diminished.
The evil "Dubious Melody" aside, Metheny uses his genius for good on 60.1.
Propelled by drummer Brandon Draper, the title track is absolutely savage. It demonstrates that Metheny is still capable of making a righteous racket that can challenge the testosterone levels of even the most manly fans of Medeski Martin & Wood and The Bad Plus.
"60.1" and a couple additional noisy numbers make the album's relatively conventional mainstream tracks seem tame. It would be a shame, however, to overlook Metheny's gorgeous playing on the Bill Evans ballad "Laurie" and the fine Bob Bowman solo on "C.C. & Water." Other Kansas City-based artists on the album include pianists Paul Smith and Roger Wilder and guitarist Danny Embrey.
Metheny demurred when I asked for permission to post a track. All ten selections are different, he suggested, and hearing only one piece would be inherently misleading. There's some truth to that. Even so, the entirety of 60.1 s characterized by Metheny's artistic restlessness, adventurous spirit and stupendous musicality.
Just don't listen to that first track.