Pat Metheny – The Orchestrion Project DVD (2012)

After seeing Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion concert, I had this frustrating feeling of wanting to more accurately convey what that experience felt like. Sure, I wrote that review and all but that was just me, the gushing Metheny fan, being overwhelmed by the night.

What was needed was some visual documentation, which was why I was so excited about the announcement of the Orchestrion Project DVD. Initial reports referred to a 3-D version as well as traditional video. I was pretty psyched about this, though perhaps a little bit on the fence about the whole 3-D thing. Why not just a concert recording?

In retrospect, Pat’s choice (as usual) turned out to be a great one. While I certainly would have loved to see a full show DVD, this carefully crafted presentation (filmed at the former St. Elias Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn) ends up revealing a lot more detail than might be seen in your typical concert hall environment. With Metheny encircled by his instruments, we get to witness the sonic complexity of the compositions made all the more beautiful by the shimmering kinetics. I don’t have the 3-D version of this release, but I’d be willing to bet that it brings another level of revelation.

Of course, central to the set is the Orchestrion suite. The recording was shot soon after Pat had finished with a world tour of this material and it’s quite obvious that he’s immersed in the music. I’ve often thought that Metheny can make even the most difficult instrumental passages look easy. Sure enough, there are times here where he’s navigating some twisty lines with a fluidity that seems close to impossible. The smile on his face brings home his love of and commitment to the composition.

There’s plenty of bonus material included with this package including several extra tracks (“80/81 – Broadway Blues”…not to be missed. Trust me.), footage of some of the original studio sessions, and a documentary on the making of the DVD.

For my ears (and eyes), the absolute high point comes with an Orchestrion-ized version of “Sueño con México” from my favorite Metheny solo record New Chautauqua. Pat samples the opening acoustic guitar arpeggio and build from there. It’s an amazing thing to see and hear one of his early compositions reinterpreted through this new-but-old technology. And to think…this all started from Metheny’s fascination with his grandfather’s player piano!

This DVD is more than just a souvenir for fans who might have attended a show from the tour. It’s an artistic document that illustrates the long reach of true inspiration.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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