Mike Metheny is very smart. He’s also extremely funny. It’s difficult to discern, consequently, if the press release that accompanies his new album Twelve For the Road is meant to be taken seriously.
My checkered career as a jazz soloist can be seen in two parts. Part one: I’m getting away with this mostly because of my Pat connection- along with the support of some very talented colleagues and equally generous listeners- and part two: because the vote is in on part one, it seems like a good time to try something different.With all but one of the ten selections consisting only of Metheny on keyboards, Twelve For the Road is not a “jazz” album. Instead, much of the project resembles electronic space music in the vein of Steve Roach and Tangerine Dream. Almost all of it is closer in spirit to the classical composer Erik Satie than to the jazz trumpet star Clifford Brown.
Is Metheny trolling? I don’t think so.
As someone who occasionally enjoys listening to the syndicated radio program “Hearts of Space” and who frequently uses Satie’s “Gymnopédies” to calm himself, I’m not unaccustomed to the approaches Metheny employs on the album.
Much of Twelve For the Road possesses an ominous edge. Guitar-like wailing makes “Catharsis” the album’s most conspicuously aggressive selection. “Ostinato,” a comparatively conventional track, contains intriguing pairings of textures. The odd lilt of “Carousel” evokes Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Metheny breaks out his signature flugelhorn only on the lush “Home.” The closing selection “Amen” seems to allude to Bill Evans “Peace Piece.”
The unconventional approach of Twelve For the Road is decidedly offbeat, but it results in one of Metheny’s most artistically and emotionally compelling albums.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)