(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “80/81 ” (1980)

Even though Bright Size Life contains a lot of elements of traditional jazz, it wasn’t until Metheny brought saxophones to the mix that it felt as though his version of the tradition was being presented. All of these years later, the presence of that particular instrument on a Metheny album continues to be a rare thing.

With the title track, we have Pat and Dewey Redman playing the head in unison before Pat takes off into his solo space. Somehow, he manages to both completely fill that space while leaving room to breathe. Pushed forward by Jack DeJohnette’s seemingly infinite variations at the kit, Metheny takes on the changes from many different angles and with increasing levels of intensity. Redman comes in just past the midway point and runs with Pat’s energy.

Metheny has often spoken of how special the 80/81 sessions were (and that most of this material was recorded in a single day….yikes!). The chemistry here is quite evident. Credit Pat with getting DeJohnette and Haden together for the first time.

Up next: The Bat

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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.