Pat Metheny Group 

The Way Up

This album marks the jazz guitarist's thirtieth year of music-making -- perhaps that's why it's something of a retrospective. Yet Metheny and his expanded Group don't replicate past glories, but rather revisit them. Intact are the deceptively breezy Americana melodies (slightly more Aaron Copland than Wilco), with their darting, bob-and-weave punch. There's a contrasting mix of folky acoustic and occasionally crunchy electric guitars, and keyboardist Lyle Mays gets to shine on acoustic piano. Sections of "Part Two" and "Part Four" feature glistening, hypnotic repetition, recalling Metheny's work with minimalist icon Steve Reich; "Part Two" also has some exhilarating straight-ahead bebop-style jazz guitar echoing ECM-era classics 80/81 and Rejoicing. Overall, The Way Up is that rare combination of the congenial and the uncompromising.

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