"One Quiet Night"
Pat Metheny

Jazz Rock Fusion

Continuing on past success,
two guitarists explore new sounds

Jazz guitarists Pat Metheny and Larry Coryell have both tasted immense success early on in their respective careers -- Coryell as a pioneer of fusing jazz with rock and Metheny as sort of his successor in adding a more melodic, Midwestern folk sound that appealed to a larger audience outside of jazz.

But, thankfully, both men have not rested on their past laurels and continue making interesting music that keeps their love for the guitar always fresh and lively.

While these two recent albums are different in approach -- Metheny's solo affair originated from his idle playing on a newly acquired acoustic baritone guitar while at home, and Coryell partners up with a contemporary of his and a younger, Brazilian-born musician -- they both make for rewarding listening.

Metheny's "One Quiet Night" is just that: an album tailor-made for evening listening in the comfort of your home, hoping, as he expresses in his liner notes, the solitary music "will offer some peace and enjoyment."

But don't expect some vaguely New Age, "aural wallpaper" kind of ambience to be weaved by Metheny's guitar. Even though the opening title track establishes its overall meditative mood, Metheny's rich voicings on the baritone guitar (using a rediscovered low Nashville tuning) is accomplished and clearly stated.

The album's standout track, the 12-minute "North to South, East to West," is one of quiet brilliance. You can really hear Metheny's command of the guitar, taking care in how each string resonates with a deep emotion under his skilled fingers. "I Will Find the Way" and "Peace Memory" are similar in tone.

Fans of his music will find comfort in the expansive and propulsive "Song for the Boys," "Over on 4th Street" and a new recording of "Last Train Home," an evocative piece that was originally written back in 1986 and one that Metheny has used as a solo encore on his recent tour.

His choice of covers are just as astute: Keith Jarrett's "My Song" (an old favorite of his) and two pop songs, while decades apart, both known for their haunting melodies -- a welcome if brief take on the Norah Jones hit "Don't Know Why" and a version of the 1960s British Invasion song "Ferry Cross the Mersey" that explores every available tonal nuance.

"Three Guitars"
Larry Coryell, Badi Assad and John Abercrombie

"THREE GUITARS" is a bit of a misleading title for the Coryell project that he shares with Abercrombie and Assad. Badi Assad -- the younger sister of Sergio and Odair of the famed Duo Assad -- vocalizes and plays "mouth and body percussion," kalimba and copper flute as much as she plays her nylon-string classical guitar. But she adds an always intriguing voice to Coryell's and Abercrombie's acoustic guitar work.

There's a gentle three-way conversation, with Assad's lovely vocal and kalimba playing, on the opening "Seu Jorge E Dona Ica," written with her brother Sergio. And she occasionally inspires her male counterparts with her unorthodox approach; the clicks, pops and slaps she creates percussively with her mouth, hands and body are especially effective in her duet with Coryell on "No Flight Tonight" and Abercrombie on "Descending Grace."

Two of the more inspired collaborations between the three are "Metamorphosis" (Coryell and Abercrombie's guitars circle around the stark, metallic tone of Assad's copper flute) and "Suspended Circles," where Assad pretty much defers to her two soloing partners but adds an interesting vocal texture akin to throat singing. And her guitar playing is featured on her solo piece "Autumn Breeze."

As for Coryell and Abercrombie, they bring with them a total of more than 75 years' experience as stalwart musicians. Their two duet pieces, "Soundtrack" and "Exercise in Fourths," show off their particular strengths in Coryell's sharper attack on the strings and Abercrombie's quieter sustain. "New Lute Prelude" shows Coryell in a solo light, influenced by the late, great Laurindo Almeida.

And Abercrombie, who is heard too infrequently on acoustic guitar, revisits two older pieces of his, "Ralph's Piano Waltz" and "Timeless," that showcase his soloing in relation to Coryell and Assad's sensitive coloration.

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