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Pat Metheny: 80/81 2LP

Pat Metheny

Guitarist Pat Metheny gets to play with the big boys on this spirited double album. Having made a string of well-received albums with his young band, featuring keyboardist Lyle Mays, Metheny (a former Gary Burton sideman) had graduated to the front rank of youthful jazz and fusion guitarists. He's a warm player with a harmonically sophisticated approach to soloing, and his breezy compositions made him easily approachable for casual listeners but belied the complexity of much of the music. 80/81 is Metheny's musical bar mitzvah: a chance to step up and be counted among the men of the congregation. Instead of his usual band of contemporaries, Metheny opts to work out with four of jazz's most respected graybeards: bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and saxophonists Dewey Redman and Mike Brecker. That both Haden and Redman are long associated with Ornette Coleman is represented by a cover of Coleman's "Turnaround," a surprising move that augured Metheny's own future collaboration with the alto legend (on "Song X"). Still, in the final analysis, Metheny is the leader and the band plays his music. --Fred Goodman