It takes a great artist to transcend glaring deficiencies, and Pat Metheny has plenty of them. His melodies are trite. His compositions are predictable and slightly pretentious. And his guitar work waddles around in a duck soup of electronic mish-machery.
Oh yes, and he is also quite marvelous.
Metheny's performance last night at the Bayou (where he will also be appearing tonight) was a thoroughly engaging evening of contemporary jazz. Cool, sweet harmonies glided across tingling, tinkling arpeggios -- even the dissonant sections were brought off with a shimmering zestiness. Metheny's music is like the taste of peppermint set to music. Backed by an agile four-piece group, including the dazzling Brazilian percussionst Nana Vasconcelos, he floated through the show, his questionable technical skills supported by an omnipresent electronic echo device that smoothed out any and all flaws. While Metheny is not a great guitarist or musical thinker, he does have the remarkable ability to express his ideas in the most palatable of settings. "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls," the centerpiece of the concert, was an overly dramatic, clashing, crashing display that approached an almost serene state of cacophony -- a tumultous four de force.
Pat Metheny has got a long way to go, but he goes a long way with what he's got.