Pat Metheny,
One Quiet Night
(Warner Bros., 2003)

Pat Metheny said in a recent edition of Downbeat that this album couldn't have been conceived three or four years ago. Thanks to technological advances, here it is, and this seems a blessing, because this CD truly celebrates Metheny's Midwest jazz/folk roots at a very personal level.

Metheny is one of America's most innovative guitarists, whose music always fills my mind with images of that wide-open, tranquil Midwest landscape. This recording can best be compared to his earlier collaboration with Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky. It certainly cannot be compared to his more full-on, vibrant Pat Metheny Group recordings!

One Quiet Night is the album where Metheny sat down in his home studio one evening, and had the presence of mind to record his improvisations on his recently acquired baritone guitar (made by his Canadian luthier Linda Manzer). Later on, whilst touring with the Pat Metheny Group, he realised that he'd "inadvertently started on the road to doing something that had been lingering in the back of my mind for some time -- to one day think about making a whole record with one single guitar, no overdubs or extra parts...." The resulting recording is an hour of quiet, introspective playing, which Metheny hopes will offer the listener "peace and enjoyment." That is exactly what it offers, and in abundance.

The guitar has an unusual Nashville tuning, which apparently requires a great deal of creative thought on the part of the player. It's a tuning that took me some while to get accustomed to, and Metheny admits in the sleeve notes that there are "technical/tuning flaws." I find these difficult to spot, however. His playing is subtle, restrained, but intensely expressive -- and the resulting sound is filled with warm and satisfying reverb, where every pick and strum can be savoured. As ever, there's a feeling of movement and pace -- I always sense some kind of endless (emotional) journey in his music -- and Metheny does seem to have an unerring ability to connect with his listener.

The album feels both expansive and orchestral in arrangement, despite the fact that you're listening to just one guitar. The compositions are largely Metheny's own, including "One Quiet Night," "North to South," "East to West, "Peace Memory" and "I Will Find the Way." However, there are also some well-chosen cover versions. His interpretation of Marsden's "Ferry Across the Mersey" is inspiring, as is Keith Jarrett's "My Song." There's also a fine cover of Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why." The last piece on the album is an acoustic version of Pat Metheny Group classic "Last Train Home" (from Still Life Talking) -- he pares the song right back to its very basic structure, and beautifully.

This is timeless music that offers the listener the opportunity to listen to one of the world's finest jazz guitarists working quietly and alone. If you enjoy consummate guitar craftsmanship, you will love this recording.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 31 January 2004

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