PAT METHENY — Pat Metheny Unity Group: Kin (←→) (review)

PAT METHENY — Pat Metheny Unity Group: Kin (←→) album cover Album · 2014 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
“Kin” is the second installment from Pat Metheny’s new ‘super group’, the Unity band. Once again the brilliant saxophonist Chris Potter is on board, as well as the rhythm section of Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez. Giulio Carmassi has been added on a variety of instruments as well as voice, and Pat’s bizarre mechanical orchestrion has been added to the mix too. “Kin” is a well crafted album with a vast variety of sounds and textures, with the group often sounding like a mini-orchestra, but there are some problems too, mostly in sound production, not performance.

“Kin” opens with a couple of highly ambitious multi-sectioned pieces that almost sound like suites within themselves. On these pieces the band builds layers of sound over Afro-Latin rhythms while Potter turns in stellar solos on the sax. Pat plays some nice solos too, but this is where some of the sound problems begin. On the opening track, “On Day One” Pat’s guitar seems buried under layers of fake reverb, and on other tracks he utilizes a thin, almost annoying synth guitar sound. I had no idea any guitarists still dabbled with the synth-guitar, it always seemed like a failed experiment at best. Track three, “Adagia”, is a nice balladic change of pace before the band heads back for more epic soundtracks over Afro-Latin grooves.

After these first five tracks, “Kin” takes a left turn and ends with a series of ballads, not really jazz ballads per se, but more in the pop/rock/soul vein really. These songs would fit well on an album by Seal or John Legend, they are all well written and soulfully played by Potter and the others, so its just a matter of taste if these cuts work for you or not. The one oddball in this closing batch of songs is “We Go On” , a short little jagged melody that sounds like early Ornette Coleman, it sounds great, but it also seems entirely out of place.

Fans of Pat Metheny and contemporary jazz in general will find a lot to like here, some of the opening cuts are very imaginative with plenty of fresh ideas and great solos, and I think contemporary jazz fans are going to be less annoyed by the overly processed modern digital sound that can be bothersome to others. Like a lot of modern jazz records, “Kin”, has been subjected to heavy compression so it can easily blend with other jazz cuts for play on modern internet jazz radio stations. Unfortunately, compression can also drain some life out of the music and make Potter’s big tenor sax sound too thin and impersonal.
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