Pat Metheny’s presence in Joni Mitchell’s touring band is one among his rare appearances as a sideman to an artist from outside the jazz world. Well before his 1979 gig as Mitchell’s lead guitarist, Pat Metheny had in place a sound and style very much his own. Throughout much of the show, he presses his well-known tone—via a Gibson ES-175 into a pair of clean Acoustic combos, gently enhanced with asymmetrical delay settings—into the service of songs distant from his own.
Joni Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light” is a brilliant performance document that brings together stage translations of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s mid-70s period. During this interval, Mitchell released one after another adventurous album: Court and Spark (1974), The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976), Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977), and Mingus (1979). In contrast to the folk and softer rock leanings of her earlier recordings, the brief on this sequence of albums was strongly informed by jazz, and Mitchell brought aboard some of the most cutting-edge jazz musicians of the era, perhaps most notably electric bass innovator and virtuoso Jaco Pastorius.
Although Mitchell herself is the essential guitar presence on her albums, she invited occasional additions from jazz-rock lead player Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. By the time of the late 1979 gigs that led to Shadows and Light, her live band included one of the most innovative young jazz guitarists of the time: Pat Metheny. Four years out from his 1976 debut and close to the cusp of releasing American Garage, Metheny was in what have proven to be rare circumstances in his lengthy and still-evolving career.
Say what you must about the group that shapeshifted from the band that made “Somebody to Love” to the band that made “We Built This City,” but anyone who wants to dis them too hard has to reckon with the high points of their output. While never a megahit, “Jane” has been an FM radio staple for four decades and may well be the most identifiable single from the Jefferson Starship incarnation. Much of its enduring appeal resides in the contributions of rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner and, especially, lead guitarist Craig Chaquico.
Beginning with a clean, phase-shifted arpeggiated Em7-Gmaj7 riff, the guitarists quickly kick on crunchy sounds and cue the rhythm section with a pick-up that precedes the tight and punchy main riff. The riff is simple, but the song resists reduction to a bonehead riff with dramatic chromatic climbs, a faux-Carribean breakdown, and a key change leading into the guitar solo.
In the week before Gold & Grey dropped, on June 14, Baroness played a series of small gigs, including an in-store appearance at Vintage Vinyl and a full-on electric performance at the Gutter, a Brooklyn, NY, bar.
Below are videos of both above-mentioned short sets, each of which is totally worthwhile, along with some thoughts about them. Please share your comments!
● I can’t think of any other band that does two-guitar harmonies in which both guitarists use single-coil pickups. The reduced sustain (as compared to humbuckers) and the pokier high frequencies of single-coils emphasize the sound of two guitars together. With some bands, I frequently hear guitar harmonies as two players trying to sound like one. I dig that sound a lot, but there are other possibilities.
In under one year, New York-based jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman has released two strong collections as the primary artist: Ask for Chaos (September 2018) and Further Chaos (May 2019). Each features tracks by two ensembles that Hekselman leads. His GHex Trio consists of Helselman’s guitar, accompanied by stand-up bass and drums. In ZuperOctave, Hekselman takes charge of both of guitar and bass in a setting that also includes keyboardist Aaron Parks and drummer/percussionist Kush Abadey. With Hekselman making liberal and dramatic use of effects and his bandmates also embracing electronics, ZuperOctave finds startling and original sonic territory. It’s electronically-touched organic music that is, above all, jazz. More specifically, it’s sonically exploratory, harmonically adventurous jazz that doesn’t sound to me like what is usually called “fusion,” for the lack of rock-oriented beats. The track “Stumble,” from Ask for Chaos, is one among many ZuperOctave highlights.
“Stumble” arrested me immediately with its memorable opening melodic figure and a lush sound so whole it’s sometimes hard to tease apart Parks’s keyboards from Hekselman’s guitar.
The music of Baroness centers on guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/visual artist John Baizley, who is one of those people who can smile and still radiate heaviness. While the tracks released ahead of the June 14 release of Gold & Grey bear his unmistakable stamp, the band’s current lineup offers power and flexibility not heard even on its high-water mark album, 2012’s Yellow & Green or its acclaimed follow-up, Purple.
A case in point is “Seasons.”