I had a guitar player friend who, when the topic of Pat Metheny came up, would say that he bought a copy of Offramp when it first came out, but didn’t like it all that much because he could never figure out when Metheny was playing the guitar. I saw where he was coming from, but this conversation came a year or so after I’d seen my first Pat Metheny Group show on the First Circle tour. At that point, Pat’s use of the guitar synth had already won me over.
Before seeing that First Metheny Group show, I kind of doubt I’d ever heard any guitar synthesizer. Certainly not in a live setting. But seeing Pat play that thing brought on some instant mind expansion: this wasn’t necessarily about the guitar. He was playing the music as he heard it. His instrument and the related technologies just enabled that vision.
On Offramp, Metheny trusts his listeners as he expands their listening horizons. “Barcarole” begins with a synthetic beat that gives way to a long Metheny/Mays guitar synthesizer/keyboard soundscape. I suppose a person waiting to hear “jazz guitar” might be disappointed and that’s too bad, because despite the extreme angularity and “technological” sound, it’s not hard to hear the melodic influence of Jim Hall here.
Next up: Are You Going With Me?