Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Music of Pat Metheny: Sueño con México (Orchestrion Edition)

Time to delve into another gem from the masterful Pat Metheny. This is from one of his solo albums (New Chautauqua) released in 1979, and as the story goes, the song was something he wrote up quite hurriedly as he became aware that he was one song short for the record. The original recording is an outstanding piece of work, wrapped around this beautiful weaving of music against a baseline arpeggio that is hypnotizing to say the least.

However, I will not be focusing on the original recording. In 2010, Metheny exposed the world to his idiosyncratic labour of love: Orchestrion. Sure, this was yet another of his solo albums, but one with a twist: he had the backing of a whole slew of musical instruments, specifically designed for the endeavour, that he was able to activate at will. He used this to good effect, and came up with 5 original compositions to showcase this project. However, after going on tour, he would dabble in some improv work using the orchestrion instruments, and he even gave some of his old tunes a fresh spin. This is of course what led to his spin-off album, The Orchestrion Project, which dropped in 2012. This album, inspired by his Orchestrion tour, was an expansion of his original orchestrion work featuring aforementioned new improv material and a few of his old hits.

And this is where we pick up things with his new rendition of Sueño con México. This rendition breathes a whole new life to the original (similar to what happened with The Way Up); the palette has been expanded greatly for this song. We end up going from the whimsy of a piece designed last minute in a Stuttgart hotel, to an even more tightly hemmed piece of music; whereas the original composition is a more nuanced quiet piece, this time around it's more full blown and expressive. The arpeggios underlying the song are more vibrant, and the extra percussion from cymbals, piano, bass, etc., used sparingly in bursts, amplifies the emotiveness of the piece.

Within this soundscape, Metheny still stands front and centre with his guitar and this time around he has a true semblance of a solo (which the original recording never really had). The solo has two distinct parts: at first he plays all his flourishes accompanied chiefly by the underlying arpeggio, and adds splashes of the orchestrion to accent his work; the second part is more subdued with just a bit more yearning conveyed by his guitar. Perhaps his finest moment comes in a roughly 1 minute stretch starting from the 6:40 mark; and within that stretch, 7:19 to 7:44 consists of some of the finest notes I've heard committed to music. So much elation, it just sounds like a stairway to Heaven. 

I enjoyed the original Sueño con México, but I adore the reinvented edition of the song, and I can truly call it one of my favourites. I love that he can still reinvent his classics anew, and use them to inspire a new generation. Thank God for such blessings. 

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