(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny Group, “The Epic” (1979)

From the shades of Weather Report in its opening tumble of descending chords to the inspired solo passages to the explosive ending, “The Epic” brings to mind (in retrospect) some of Pat Metheny’s through-composed material such as The Way Up.

Like a lot of Metheny compositions, we pass though several levels of emotion and energy from start to finish. There’s the burst of energy at the start, which is almost immediately dialed back as a prelude to the high-octane fusion (I mean that in the best possible way) section to follow. This leads into the solo passages, during which Lyle Mays steals the show. If you listen carefully, you can here somebody (my guess is Pat) cry out just past the four minute mark. Pat’s solo is definitely fed by the high bar set by Mays.

The solos give way to a quick burst of fusion energy before the group steps back to again begin the slow build. Lyle’s burning solo excepted, this is my favorite part of the track, full of gorgeous interplay, artificial harmonics, and sweeps of the Autoharp. From there we are drawn toward the volcanic ending. I can almost see why they don’t play this song anymore, as the shape of the composition’s landscape isn’t too far removed from “The First Circle,” which has become a concert staple.

I’ve included a live version of “The Epic” because, obviously, I would love to hear this live.

Up next: New Chautauqua

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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.