An Eye To The Future
Side-Eye NYC (10 September, 2021; Modern Recordings) is prolific Pat Metheny’s third album release this year following Road To The Sun and Down In Texas (Live Houston ‘81). This 2019 live recording from Sony Hall, New York, offers 30 minutes of new music plus a few imaginative re-workings of Metheny classics.
This time the 20-time Grammy winner has teamed up with 26-year-old Houston-born keyboard wizard James Francies, and Marcus Gilmore on drums. This popular 1960s trio format, gives a clue to the album’s title, Side Eye: “I wanted to create an ongoing platform to host a rotating cast of the newer generations of musicians who have particularly caught my interest along the way,” explains Metheny.
The opening track, It Starts When We Disappear, is both a new composition and one of the best. On one of the live versions in our video selection Metheny can be seen playing his legendary Roland G-303 Guitar Synthesizer in an ethereal way, underpinned by a jazz-rock beat. As the song advances and shifts listeners can pick out touches of electronica, a lovely guitar melody and a catchy solo by Francies. The 67 year-old guitar great, Metheny, is constantly referencing the past as he carves out new paths to the future.
Appropriately the Metheny classic Better Days Ahead follows, which is a track that he has previously played with a mid-tempo latin feel, but which has now been slowed right down. He plays his Gibson ES-175 - which he bought at a garage sale in the city of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, when he was 12 years old - on one of his live performances of the song. It is a cut to kick-back to and let the mind wander where it will. Timeline is also given a makeover, this time more upbeat; but it is the re-imagining of Bright Size Life that really shines. Both that latter track and Sirabhorn have been taken from the 1976 album of the same name and are sure to bring back sentimental memories for any long-time fan.
However Metheny then throws us a curve ball with some lovely electric guitar on Lodger, which recalls the blues-rock of Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, and is set off by an exquisite Hammond organ.
The album closes with Ornette Coleman’s wonderful blues-groove Turnaround, and then Zenith Blue; which is a colourful fusion piece that is another standout track on the album.
Songs like the the re-worked Sirahborn and Bright Size Life help make Side Eye NYC a warm and nostalgiac album, while others like Lodger and It Starts When We Disappear bring freshness, and will make fans sit up and listen. As always, the great man glances back to the past, but with an eye to the future.