Pat Metheny – 80-81 (Remastered) (1980/2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:20:27 minutes | 1,7 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © ECM
Digitally remastered! With 80/81, Pat Metheny took one step closer to his dream of working with The Prophet of Freedom (a dream he finally achieved with 1985’s Song X), and what better company than Coleman alumni Charlie Haden and Dewey Redman, both fresh off the boat of Keith Jarrett’s newly defunct American Quartet and both welcome additions to the extended Metheny family. Along with the technical mastery of reedman Mike Brecker and drummer Jack DeJohnette, plus a dash of post-bop spice, the result was this still-fresh sonic concoction. The atmospheres of the opening “Two Folk Songs” invite us with that expansive pastoralism so characteristic of Metheny. This makes Brecker’s highly trained yet raw stylings all the more marked, bringing as they do a sense of presence that explodes into a million pieces. Metheny’s benign sound catches at the threshold of perfection with every turn of phrase, allowing Brecker fiery bursts of abandon. DeJohnette throws on a log or two with his rocketing solo, while Haden wipes the slate clean with shadings of his own. Metheny shows off his unparalleled command of two-string harmonies, fading on a lightly skipping snare. This feeling of perpetual motion lingers throughout the title track. Content in sharing the revelry, Metheny relays to Redman who, though he may not fly as high, emits no less intensity in his groove. “The Bat” gives us a minor-keyed shadow of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” before diving headfirst into Coleman’s “Turnaround.” This trio setting boasts inventive melodies and a plunking solo from Haden. “Open” is, suitably enough, the freest track on the album, emboldened by trade-offs between Redman and Brecker, while “Pretty Scattered” dances more lithely with John Abercrombie-like exuberance. A ringing high from Metheny laser-etches this track into our memory. Balladry abounds in “Every Day (I Thank You),” one of his most gorgeous ever committed to disc. This is music that grins even as we grin, and shines through the darkest cloud of a Midwestern storm. Metheny ends alone with “Goin’ Ahead.” This breath-catching piece works its farewell into our hearts with every suspended note, effortlessly walking the beaten path of all those souls who have traveled before, so that those yet to be born might know where they come from, and to where they might return.
Like much of what Metheny produces, 80/81 is wide open in two ways. First in its far-reaching vision, and second it its willingness to embrace the listener. Like a dolly zoom, he enacts an illusion of simultaneous recession and approach, lit like a fuse that leads not to an explosion, but to more fuse.
In 1980, Pat Metheny had already garnered an impressive level of popularity. With sold out tours and their consequential album sales, the guitarist had imposed upon the scene a sound and style which was already being adopted by others. And under the banner of the Pat Metheny Group with Lyle Mays, Mark Egan and Danny Gottlieb, this success was furthered all the more. But some of jazz’s ayatollahs were still somewhat sceptical of his youth-carried success (Metheny himself was only 25 at the time)… With 80/81, which was recorded in May 1980 under the label ECM, things were soon to change. At the long-haired guitarist’s side was Munich-based producer Manfred Eicher. Eicher had the judicious idea of uniting, in Oslo’s Talent Studios, a pianist-free group comprising of four incontestable big names: bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Jack DeJohnette and tenor saxophonists Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker. What could have been merely a flashy and pointless casting turned out to be quite the opposite! On this copious one hour and twenty minute double album that’s as electric (on the beginning and end sections of the record) as it is acoustic, Pat Metheny shows all his colours, and writes the best part of the songs himself. Most importantly, these famed sidemen are stylistically a long-shot from his usual musical compadres. And the exchanges between this most-harmonious five are incredibly inspiring. Former musicians in Keith Jarett’s 1971-1976 quartet and match made in heaven, Charlie Haden and Dewey Redman seamlessly accommodate our young guitar maestro. No shock if you are aware of the relationship Metheny and Haden, both ailing from Missouri (they would record together some years later), have for North American folkloric music which shines through on this album. DeJohnette expertly weaves in and out of this tight canvas and is a central part of 80/81. The drummer carries a voice here that succeeds in standing out whilst remaining in harmony with others. And on songs like Open it is impossible to tear away your ear for even a second from the magical sound of his drumsticks. Finally, the saxophonists voices are opposing yet succeed in cementing their own place (Brecker is on fire on the opening of Two Folk Songs and Redman playful on his solo in Pretty Scattered). A double album which, as the years go by and after multiple listens, will stand strong among the vast discography of its artist. – Marc Zisman
1 Two Folk Songs
3 The Bat
6 Pretty Scattered
7 Every Day (I Thank You)
8 Goin’ Ahead