Picks and Pans Review: Still Life (talking)

updated 11/23/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/23/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Pat Metheny Group

The secondary cast of characters in his group may have changed, but the essential qualities of a Pat Metheny album are present here in delightful abundance. With help from his longtime collaborator, keyboardist Lyle Mays, Metheny composes lively fusion jazz that encompasses many moods, all of them fueled by Metheny's scintillating guitar work. As on his last LP, First Circle, a Brazilian breeze wafts through some of the key songs on the album, such as the bossa nova (It's Just) Talk. That tincture de Rio is deepened through using the voices of David Blamires and Mark Ledford as spectral instruments, singing melodies without words. As has become his custom, Metheny structures his longer pieces to unfold in sections. For example, the shimmering samba that opens Minuano (Six Eight) gives way to one of Metheny's more experimental free-form solos, perhaps showing the liberating influence of his recent work with Ornette Coleman. The song then hits a mincing midsection with a pizzicato Mexican beat before resolving its initial theme. Mays and Metheny show their sensitive colors on So May It Secretly Begin, a lovely jazz ballad in the style of Joe Sample. On Last Train Home, a sentimental theme, Metheny achieves a tone like an electric sitar on his guitar synthesizer, as drummer Paul Wertico simulates the chug of a locomotive by tapping his high-hat cymbal with his sticks. Still Life is music that doesn't necessarily demand much of a listener. Its strong melodic structures, spiced with restrained improvisation, serve nicely as background. But there's enough heft to support intense scrutiny, too, when you're in the mood. (Geffen)

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