With Pat, you simply never know what is coming next. But among the many things that make this ever-changing artist so special is the consistent level of commitment and quality that he brings to everything he does. For the first time in more than 30 years, Pat features a tenor saxophone in the front line. The last, in fact the only, previous Metheny-led record to feature a horn player was the iconic and influential ECM recording 80/81. The Unity Band introduces a new Metheny ensemble of the same name with the amazing Chris Potter on sax and bass clarinet, longtime collaborator Antonio Sanchez on drums, and the up-and-coming Ben Williams on bass. The album features nine new Metheny compositions. Says Pat: "This is a group of musicians who can do just about anything."
The Pat Metheny Unity Band is touring the United States this summer and fall, with stops in 39 cities.
Metheny says of the three-decade gap since his last project to feature saxophonists (the late great Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker): “In many ways my bands were envisioned as an alternative to the more conventional kinds that I had come up playing in. The fact that it has taken another 30 years to get to it again is kind of a testament to how busy those ‘alternative’
“We all always talked about revisiting that band at some point, but with both Mike and Dewey gone now, that will never happen,” he continues. “But then Chris Potter came along. As a fan, I have watched as he has become one of the greatest musicians of our time, and when we were both invited to play on Antonio Sanchez’s debut record, I immediately saw that we had a natural way of playing and phrasing that suggested something more. I started thinking right then of somehow building a project around that.”
For the rhythm section, Metheny explains, “Antonio was kind of an obvious choice; he has been one of my closest associates over the past ten years and has also played a lot with Chris. He is such a special musician. There was a certain kind of power I knew that Chris and I would be getting to and I can’t think of anyone who could take us to that place better than Antonio.” He continues, “A few years ago, Christian McBride invited me to an event that he was leading with the jazz students at Juilliard. Ben Williams was featured on a few tunes and his playing spoke to me immediately. I used Ben a few times to sub for Christian with the trio and found him to be a great playing partner and a great person too. He and Antonio had an instantly effortless rapport.”
Once he had assembled this stellar band, Metheny wrote a considerable amount of new material for them. Through rehearsals, they winnowed the music down to the nine tunes on the Unity Band album. “It’s funny, I have heard so many guitar/tenor records that have been clearly influenced by that 80/81 sound, and yet I really wanted to try to take it to a different place this time, even though that record was certain to be a reference point along the way,” Metheny says. “One of Antonio’s specialties is this even eighth-note thing he does, and in a lot of ways that set a direction for the writing. But still, this is a group of musicians who can do just about anything.”
Over the course of more than three decades, guitarist Pat Metheny has set himself apart from the jazz mainstream, expanding and blurring boundaries and musical styles. His record-setting body of work includes 19 Grammy Awards in 12 separate categories; a series of influential trio recordings; award-winning solo albums; scores for hit Hollywood motion pictures; and collaborations and duets with major artists such as Ornette Coleman, Steve Reich, Charlie Haden, Brad Mehldau, and many others. His band the Pat Metheny Group, founded in 1977, is the only ensemble in history to win Grammys for seven consecutive releases.