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Concert Reviews:
Pat Metheny makes up for lost time in first Detroit Jazz Fest appearance
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- Pat Metheny had just one complaint about his first-ever appearance at the Detroit Jazz Festival.

He didn't have enough time.

Playing to an overflow crowd on Sunday, Sept. 3, at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage, an ebullient Metheny talked about what a "very special" city Detroit has been during his nearly 40-year career, noting all the places he's played and calling his inaugural jazz festival stop "extra special." But he also found it odd "to look at the clock" when his usual shows stretch to three or four hours.

His fans likely felt the same way, but Metheny and his Unity Band quartet made the most of the truncated, 65-minute festival set, tearing through eight songs that, not surprisingly, focused on its first album but still touched on enough highlights from the rest of Metheny's catalog to make up a bit for his previous absence from the festival lineup.

Sporting a print shirt and black jeans, Metheny started the show solo, playing "Sound of Water" from his 2007 collaboration with Bard Mehldau on his 42-string Pikasso guitar, letting the ringing tones of acoustic guitar, sitar, baritone and mandolin overlap each other before saxophonist Chris Potter began playing a complementary melody that was subsquently muscled up by bassist Ben Williams (who previously played with Detroit vocalist Jesse Palter) and drummer Antonio Sanchez. The troupe then jumped into a trio of "Unity Band" tracks -- "Come and See," a hot and aggressive "Roofdogs" and "This Belongs to You" -- with Metheny and Potter playing a combination of twinned and interwtwining parts as well as trading solos.

The Unity Band also delivered a singing rendition of "Police People" from "Song X," Metheny's 1985 teaming with Ornette Coleman, then brought out the Orchestrion, the one-man-band mad scienctist project that Metheny unveiled in 2010, for an improvisation that resolved into some of "Signals" from the Unity Band's album. The group's own "Breakdealer" closed the main set, while for the encore Metheny reached back for a "hit" -- "Are You Going With Me" from 1982's "Offramp" album -- running his guitar through synthesized effects while Potter played flute.

It's likely that Metheny's next appearance in the metro area will be in a more traditional venue and allow him to play as long as he wants. But on Sunday he and the Detroit Jazz Festival were able to check each other off their respective lists with a performance that rewarded the long wait.

The Detroit Jazz Festival runs through Monday, Sept. 4, in Detroit's Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park

Web Site: www.detroitjazzfest.com

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