Pat Metheny is a magnificent musician who just happened to make his fame by playing a rousing Jazz guitar.  Metheny’s long career in Jazz has been vibrant and punching.  He always takes you on a rapid, breathless, journey and then plunks you back to earth.  Metheny’s new album — What’s It All About — dropped today, and the album consists of a curious, non-Jazzy, covers of several classics.

Here are the songs:

  • The Sound of Silence
  • Cherish
  • Alfie
  • Pipeline
  • Garota de Ipanema
  • Rainy Days and Mondays
  • That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be
  • Slow Hot Wind
  • Betcha By Golly, Wow
  • And I Love Her
  • ‘Round Midnight
  • This Nearly Was Mine

This is how Pat explains his non-Jazz influence for the album:

With “What’s It All About,” we have, yet again, another angle to consider in the Metheny oeuvre. After nearly 40 recordings under his own name, this is the first Metheny album where there is not a single Metheny composition represented. But far from being a “covers” album, this a personal view of ten classic songs, some very well known, some less so, filtered through the harmonic and melodic ideology of a modern master with a most individual approach.

Metheny sets the stage for this recording; “Almost ten years ago, in the fall of 2001, a special period in New York City, I was home one night and basically started playing in a way I never had thought about before. Like all of us living in the city around that time, I had a lot on my mind. I had just gotten some new recording equipment and set up a mic and turned it on. Six or seven hours later, I had a whole bunch of stuff recorded. Over the next few months while on a long tour I listened to it and realized that something unique had happened that night. I had gotten to some stuff that was quite different for me.”

Here’s what I have to say about all that hooey: “Huh?”  I just don’t get it.  If you love and respect Pat Metheny, you expect the same reverence back from him as an Artist and “What’s It All About” doesn’t deliver the trademark Metheny mania of musical genius.

Sure, the songs are beautifully played — they’ll put you straight to sleep — but where is the Metheny magic?  I love hearing him play just a guitar on this album, but I want much more interesting phrasing and chord changes than what he provides.  It’s as if Metheny decided to create an album full of elevator music just to put TM Studios out of business! Even his cover of ‘Round Midnight is incredibly yawn-inspiring!

Here’s my iTunes Ping! proof-of-purchase that I put my money where my review lives — even though I feel poorer for the effort:

I’m a mad Pat Metheny fan, but I am supremely disappointed by — What’s It All About — and my final thought on the matter identically reflects the album title; and I shoot that query right back at Metheny: “What’s It All About, Pat?”  I hope his reply will be a much more original and rousing future effort that better honors the Jazz spirit that made him such a SuperGenius in the first place.  In the meantime, I’ll listen to Neil Young again instead.

3 Comments

    1. It was definitely a surprise, Gordon. When I first heard about the album, I couldn’t wait to hear Pat’s take on the classic songs. What came out of him, thought, was not the usual, tricksy, Metheny riffing melodies we’ve come to love and expect from him.

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