(Cross the) Heartland: Pat Metheny, “Open” (1980)

There are many reasons to look wistfully back at this ensemble, thinking of how great it would have been to see them perform live. That list is tops out with “Open.”

It begins with a long and intense Metheny/DeJohnette duet passage that has Pat flying through crazed shifting arpeggios and chromatic runs. Then Pat drops back and Dewey takes over. Not long after that Charlie Haden arrives and before long Dewey steps back and we have what is essentially a Haden solo, with DeJohnette providing quiet support with light snare and cymbal work. Charlie’s solo is my favorite part of “Open.” Folks can make all the jokes they’d like about “Oh no, the bass solo!” but Haden is and always has been a one man melodic idea machine.

The group takes things a step higher as Brecker comes in, playing cat and mouse with Haden’s bass phrasing, with accents tossed in here and there by Metheny. Finally, we have the full group driving through a series of descending, slurring passages…only to reverse direction and take everything back up.

What’s very exciting about this is that it’s not easy to determine which passages are fully improvised and which are written. More important: it’s so exhilarating that you just don’t care!

Up next: Pretty Scattered

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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.