Picks and Pans Review: Letter from Home
The cynical among hard-core Metheny jazz devotees, accustomed to his 20-minute pieces, might cringe at the relatively cryptic five-minute-long tunes on this album. But when the short compositions are being painstakingly handcrafted note by note by this master guitarist, even the faithful should see the virtue in music that is more accessible and less daunting.
Metheny has carried over the Brazilian tinge of his Still Life (Talking) record two years ago, and Pedro Aznar's airy vocals are again laid side by side with Metheny's alfresco melodies. "Have You Heard" sets the effortless pace of the album with Metheny's climbing scales against keyboardist Lyle Mays's lush, romantic acoustic piano. Metheny, toying with a Lindsey Buckingham guitar style on "Slip Away," provides a pop variation to the album's other tracks. But the album's high point is the idyllic Portuguese ballad "Dream of the Return," evoking a visionary sensation without that dull, New Age feeling.
The longest song clocks in at under eight minutes. Those familiar with Metheny's sidelong romps may find it hard to believe less is more. But Metheny's economy of scales is condensed beautifully on Letter from Home. (Geffen)