An honorary homeboy by virtue of the fact that he graduated from the UM School of Music, guitarist Pat Metheny has earned a rare distinction in the fickle realms of the music biz. An artist eager to explore other possibilities, he still retains a popular following that generally finds his music engaging and accessible, even when it veers to the outer fringes. (Well, almost. Zero Tolerance for Silence, his 1994 experiment with feedback, left many listeners befuddled.) Consequently, his efforts in the mid-to-late-'70s at the helm of the Pat Metheny Group made him the best-selling artist on the then-fledgling ECM progressive jazz label. It was a success he was able to bring to more mainstream companies, including Warner Bros., Geffen, and Nonesuch.
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In addition to his work under his own aegis, Metheny has recorded with an extraordinary who's who of more progressive realms, including revered figures such as Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, and Dewey Redman. That's a measure of both his prolific prowess and desire to continually challenge himself and his audiences. Orchestrions, Metheny's latest offering released earlier this year, is no exception. It's an ambitious experimental solo work that finds him playing a variety of acoustic instruments specially designed and built for this project. The fact that, after three and a half decades, he still redefines himself speaks volumes to the indelible imprint he's made in the annals of modern jazz.