The Pat Metheny Group lit up its corner of the generally bleak pop-jazz fusion field with a show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night that was as substantial as it was appealing.
While too many fusion artists mix pop's monotony with jazz's self-indulgence, this group merged pop's strong melodies and purposeful structures with jazz's rich harmonies and adventurous variations. Guitarist Metheny--with his longtime coleader Lyle Mays on keyboards--led the quintet through more than two hours of carefully conceived but feelingly played compositions, both old and new.
Metheny's guitar notes had a glistening liquid tone, and Mays' languorous, romantic piano lines helped build the rolling boogie-woogie rhythms. Both Metheny and Mays used synthesizers to widen their sound spectrum to include industrial motors and gothic organ on "As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls."
Bassist Steve Rodby was firm but unobtrusive until he stepped forward on "Jaco," the band's tribute to Jaco Pastorius. New drummer Paul Wertico gave a full but understated backing to Metheny's delicate arpeggios on "Farmers Trust." The group's newest member, Pedro Aznar, played percussion and string instruments and sang lovely scat syllables on several songs built on haunting Latin folk tunes.