Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: Pat Metheny- The Orchestrion Project

I'm an ardent fan of Pat Metheny's Orchestrion concept.  I've witnessed performances of Metheny's tour in support of the groundbreaking undertaking on two continents.

Yet the recent release of the audio-only version The Orchestrion Project makes me feel as if I'm experiencing the endeavor for the first time.  (Uninitiated readers are encouraged to watch this three-minute promotional video.)

The sound quality seemed fine at the Orchestrion concerts I attended in Kansas City and Rome.  Yet the mix is substantially different on the new release.  Listeners can safely infer that the sound field of the live recording is set to Metheny's specifications.   The album also demonstrates how far the concept has progressed since the initial 2010 recording.

The Orchestrion offers an amazing spectacle. Yet divorced from the stupendous visual distractions,  The Orchestrion Project is an excellent stand-alone recording.

Metheny's identifiable traits, of course, are readily apparent.   The sentimentalism that causes many imperceptive people to dismiss all of Metheny's work materializes on "Soul Search."  Fresh versions of old favorites like the discordant "80/81" and the lovely "SueƱo Con Mexico" clarify the ways in which Metheny deploys the Orchestrion.  A mechanical rhythm section- my sole objection to the project- is especially apparent on "Spirit of the Air."

Given Metheny's brilliance, the supposed flaw could very well be a deliberate commentary on the philosophical implications of his elaborate one-man-band.  The Orchestrion Project serves as further evidence that the iconoclastic artist is one of the most important musicians of our time.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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