[Review] Pat Metheny Group (1978)

Their third album is a high-water mark that features their warmest, loveliest music to date.

Kronomyth 3.0: Speak to me of melodies.

If you don’t fall in love with Pat Metheny after listening to this album, then I fear it’s never going to happen. In the opening minutes of San Lorenzo, the Pat Metheny Group create a world unlike any other: a warm and strangely calming storm of strings and sticks and ivory that is as melodic as the best pop music yet as free as the best jazz. Listening to these songs is akin to taking in the vista of a natural wonder; your world becomes larger as you become smaller.

Though again recorded in Oslo under the watchful ears of Manfred Eicher, Pat Metheny Group is a different album than the first two “solo” Metheny records. Watercolors, for example, had an audible chill to it; something that seems to be a shared quality among ECM recordings. Pat Metheny Group is about forty degrees warmer. It’s soft and supple, but don’t you dare call it smooth jazz. If the music seems to flow effortlessly (and it does), it’s part of Pat Metheny’s peculiar genius and the natural communication he has with Lyle Mays.

In describing this music, jazz is too limiting a word. Jaco sounds more like sophisticated pop than jazz, while the combination of Aprilwind and April Joy could pass for progressive rock. And Phase Dance is a dance for joy, not for jazz. Every song on Pat Metheny Group is warm, inviting, enveloping. Not surprisingly, these songs remain popular in Pat Metheny’s live repertoire.

This album also had significant crossover appeal. I remember several of my friends, themselves more inclined to prog and sophisticated pop than jazz, had this album in their collection. For many people, I suspect, their love affair with the music of Pat Metheny began in earnest here. You won’t find this album listed among anyone’s top 500 pop/rock albums (where I would place it, if inclined to list-making) because music like this defies categorization even as it invites superlatives. And, as I think I’ve mentioned before, naming music is fool’s work; it will speak its own name, if you listen.

Original elpee version

A1. San Lorenzo (Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays) (10:14)
A2. Phase Dance (Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays) (8:18)
B1. Jaco (Pat Metheny) (5:34)
B2. Aprilwind (Pat Metheny) (2:09)
B3. April Joy (Pat Metheny) (8:14)
B4. Lone Jack (Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays) (6:41)

The Players

Pat Metheny (6- and 12-string guitars), Mark Egan (bass), Dan Gottlieb (drums), Lyle Mays (piano, Oberheim synthesizer, autoharp). Produced by Manfred Eicher; engineered by Jan Erik Kongshaug.

The Pictures

Photo by Robert Masotti. Cover design by B. Wojirsch.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in March 1978 in the US (ECM, ECM-1-1114/ECM M5E 1114) and West Germany (ECM, ECM 1114). Reached #5 on the US Jazz Albums chart.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc worldwide (ECM, 825 593).
  2. Re-released on 24k gold compact disc in 2002 in Japan (ECM, UCCE-9029).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 2004 in Japan (Universal, UCCU-5215).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *