Once upon a time‚ Pat Metheny Group albums were different: They weren't long-winded‚ meandering marathons with unintelligible lyrics sung over Metheny's dreaded synth-guitar. Although Day Trip is Metheny's best solo effort to date‚ it lacks the mesmerizing vibe of American Garage or Bright Size Life (which is basically the Metheny Group with Eberhard Weber on bass). Classified possesses the spirit of those early PMG recordings‚ but doesn't let it obscure the Brubeck Brothers Quartet's unique viewpoint.
Like the original Metheny Group‚ the BBQ never jettisons craftsmanship in the name of spectacle. Chuck Lamb's elegant piano keeps one foot of the band in jazz tradition‚ while Mike DeMicco's ringing guitar harkens back to when Metheny and Manfred Eicher decided to change all the rules. Lamb and DeMicco's collaboration on DeMicco's dancing opener‚ "Good Question‚" evokes Metheny's early works with Lyle Mays; Dan Brubeck's hissing cymbals drive the piece forward while Chris Brubeck slides fat Fender bass lines between it all.
Even on more aggressive pieces like Dan's swinging "7th Sense‚" you get the same balance of passion and precision as you do on Chris' tender ballad "Friends beyond Time." On the Latin-flavored "Dance of the Shadows‚" all four players toss the ending solo spot around like a brand new baseball‚ with each transition happening faster than the last. Chris also doubles on bass trombone‚ giving "Shadows" and "Friends" a vibrant harmonic that takes the overall sound even further.
Chris' three-part "Vignettes for Nonet" -- a classical commission performed with the phenomenal chamber group Imani Winds -- shows the BBQ's ability to transcend boundaries. Even Third Stream detractors must admit the ensemble transitions superbly from complex classical forms to straight-ahead jazz grooves. And far from running from family legacy‚ Chris and Dan put their own mark on their father's classic "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Imani Winds play a big part here‚ too; they highlight the dizzying intricacy of the piece's opening section‚ then pepper the composition's transitional space with smoky old-time flavor.
In the end‚ Classified has a joyful sparkle that transcends familial heritage and musical echoes. That freshness will stand Brubeck Brothers Quartet in good stead as they move forward.
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