If Pat Metheny's solo career were mapped out since he first recorded under his own name in 1975 (the near-definitive Bright Size Life on ECM) you might still not be able to predict what the Missouri-born guitarist will do from project to project.
That said‚ it's perfectly logical for Metheny to move from his Orchestrion project of 2010 to the solo acoustic effort What It's All About. After spending the better part of a year touring as a one man band with an elaborate device triggered by Metheny's electric guitar to simulate percussion instrument accompaniment‚ the Grammy winning guitarist takes some otherwise hackneyed material‚ such as the Carpenters' "Rainy Days and Mondays" and The Association's "Cherish‚" shears it of sentimentality and thereby uncovers the genuine sentiment in the melodies.
In the thirty plus years Pat Metheny's played with his Group‚ in various ensembles of two and three members and as well as in the solo format‚ he's developed an impeccable touch and a consummate sense of dynamics. Each project emphasizes those virtues as well as his expertise at production‚ composition and performance‚ but What It's All About (and its equally superb predecessor One Quiet Night from 2003) reveal his skills distilled to their essence. As in "Alfie" and the tune that closes the ten track‚ near-one hour recording‚ The Beatles' "And I Love Her‚" there's the distinct sense the guitarist derives as much pleasure from playing these songs and hitting the notes just right as a listener does from hearing him play.
As is often the case with a jazz musician so commercially successful‚ Pat Metheny may be criticized here for being maudlin (Carly Simon's "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be") and unimaginative (the very concept of an album of covers)‚ but after the complexity of his preceding work‚ there is a freshness to the musicianship on this disc‚ whether he's playing baritone‚ six string (for a witty version of the surf music classic "Pipeline") or the Pikasso guitar of 42 strings (Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence").
Regardless of the instrument‚ What It's All About is the sound of a man re-discovering why he learned to love to play music on the guitar in the first place.
Pat Metheny