Adam McCulloch for JAZZWISE MAGAZINE – In these turbulent times small things can provide a reassuring sense of constancy. So Pat Metheny‘s arrival on stage clutching a 48-string guitar, in a striped t-shirt and jeans, with the smile of a man in his element etched on his face, relayed a sense of ‘all is well with the world’, a glowing feeling that persisted for the next two and a half hours and beyond.
This was the opening day of the EFG London Jazz Festival – an occasion that always means making a tough choice: the big opening Jazz Voice bash at the Royal Festival Hall, Manu Dibango at Ronnie’s, Groove Warriors at the Bull’s Head, Michael Janisch Band at Rich Mix, Tomasz Stanko at Cadogan Hall… But Metheny was the stellar billing: a multi-Grammy Award and Downbeat Poll winner whose gigs over the past 40 years have been marked not only by incredible musicianship, adventurous technology and great tunes but by a ferocious commitment to continued musical searching.
Joined for the current cycle of gigs by Brit Gwilym Simcock on piano, Malaysian-born, Australian-raised Linda May Han Oh on bass and 15-year Metheny associate Antonio Sánchez, from Mexico City on drums, Metheny’s tune choices were similar to those of the Ronnie Scott’s sets last year: lesser known PMG tracks, picks from his 1976 debut Bright Size Life, various Trio albums and the 1992 masterpiece Secret Story. Without a new album to promote this was Metheny enjoying himself with old tunes and finding fresh ways of playing them.