Pat Metheny is one of the most talented and accomplished musicians in the jazz community and the music community in whole. That of course goes without saying. He has spent the better part of his adult life crafting what is some of the most original and creative music that the jazz community and music community in larger part have ever had the pleasure of hearing. This applies not just to Metheny’s albums but to his live recordings as well. And his latest live recording (<—->) The Unity Sessions proves that without a single doubt. The recording, available now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital platforms, it is one of the best of those categories to be released so far this year. The main reason that it proves so enjoyable is that it is a live recording that isn’t necessarily live in the traditional sense. It isn’t the first time that Metheny has taken this route with his live recordings. Nor is he the only act to take this route, either. Regardless (<—->) The Unity Sessions still proves through its semi-live setting to be another enjoyable recording from Metheny. It is just one reason that the recording proves enjoyable for Metheny’s fans, too. The concert’s set list, which features selections from Metheny’s 2014 album Kin (<—->) and other previous Metheny albums, is another reason that the recording proves so entertaining. Last and just as important to note of the concert’s positives is its production values. Considering the concert’s intimate setting the people behind the cameras (and in front of the editors) had plenty to work with even as small as the stage seemed. Some of the shots ended up being surprisingly stunning in their simplicity while others did an equally impressive job of capturing the emotion of the recording’s featured songs. That will be discussed later. The work of producer/editor Steve Rodby put the finishing touch on the production crew’s expert work to make for a recording that any Metheny fan will agree is yet another great recording from Metheny and Eagle Rock, and also one more of this year’s best new live recordings within its category of recordings.
(<—->) The Unity Sessions is yet another great recording from Metheny and Eagle Rock, and also one more of this year’s best new live recordings within its category of recordings. The main way in which it shows this is through its general presentation. While it is a live recording it is not necessarily a live recording in the traditional sense of the word. Metheny and company performed the set presented here at 5 Angels Theater in New York in 2014. The catch is that there was (apparently) no audience in attendance at the recording of the group’s performance. It was just Metheny and his band mates from the Kin (<—->) recording sessions. It’s not the first time that Metheny has ever taken such an approach with his “live” recordings. And he’s not the first artist to ever use this approach either. What sets this performance of sorts apart from those other recordings (both from him and other settings) is that it actually was recorded in a live venue. The venue in question just didn’t have anyone there to take in the concert. That makes watching the concert feel that much more special for every fan because it makes fans feel as if they are the only one there, enjoying a concert just for them. It makes the performance all the more special for every fan. And it is just one element of this recording that makes it one that every fan will enjoy. The recording’s set list is another important piece of the whole that makes (<—->) The Unity Sessions such an enjoyable recording for fans.
The general presentation of Pat Metheny’s new “live” recording in itself forms a solid base for its overall viewing experience. As important as it is to the recording’s overall viewing experience, it is hardly the only element worth noting here. The songs chosen for the performance are just as important to its whole as the overall presentation. Audiences will note that of its fifteen featured songs, roughly half of the presented set list is taken from Metheny’s 2014 full-length studio offering (<—->) Kin. The eight tracks that make up the remainder of the recording’s set list come from his 2012 album Unity Band, his 2000 album Trio 99 – 00, 2005’s collaboration with Ornette Coleman Song X and 2000’s 80/81. The ‘Medley’ and performance of Cherokee are special additions to the recording’s set list. In other words, the majority of the songs presented here are more recent material. While it obviously is not a career-spanning performance, that does not take anything away from the performance. The musicians’ talent and stage presence makes every song wholly enjoyable in their own right with the set list in whole being a collection of songs that will keep every viewer engaged regardless of their familiarity with Metheny’s body of work. Taking this into consideration it shows in full just why the set list that makes up the body of this recording is so important to its viewing experience. It still is not all that makes the performance such an enjoyable experience for fans, either. The work of those behind the cameras, audio boards, and editors is just as important to the whole of the recording as the show’s set list and its overall presentation.
Both the general presentation of (<—->) The Unity Sessions and its featured set list are important in their own right to the recording’s overall viewing experience. While both are undeniably important to the whole of the recording, neither would be of any importance without the work of those charged with capturing the performance by Metheny and his fellow musicians, and those charged with handling it in post production. Being that the performance was actually recorded in a live venue without an audience is hugely important to the camera crew and those behind the audio boards. Having no bodies to soak up the sound and no one to limit the ability of the cameras to move around in the intimate setting opened up the options for director Matthew Beighly. He could have the cameras move wherever he wanted without worrying about obstructing anyone’s view. It resulted in some great shots such as in ‘Come and See.’ Metheny sits alone on stage with his rather interesting guitar/sitar hybrid, with the light pouring in from behind drummer Antonio Sanchez’s drum set. Sanchez is not there to obstruct the light. So having so much darkness around him and that one giant mass of light pouring in from almost behind him makes for such a big impact. The slow pans and mix fades at other points throughout the recording do just as much in their own right to highlight the intended emotional impact of each song. Just as impressive as the work of the show’s camera crew and director is the work of audio techs Pete Karam and David Oakes. Karam and Oakes expertly handled the openness of the venue with the result being a sound that when coupled with the equally expert work of the camera crew, makes for an experience that will deeply move any of Metheny’s fans. The final product, handled by Rodby in post production is a recording that is perfectly edited with its fade outs, fade ins, audio levels and other elements. It shows in the end to be a recording that is well worth the watch especially for that precision. The work of those behind the cameras and computers, coupled with the concert’s set list and its overall presentation, makes the show in whole a recording that every one of Metheny’s fans will enjoy and will agree is one more of the best of this year’s new live DVDs and Blu-rays.
(<—->) The Unity Sessions is one of the best of this year’s new live DVDs and Blu-rays. That is obvious in examining the recording’s general presentation. It’s not the first time that Metheny has given fans a rather non-traditional live recording. That’s not a bad thing, either. That’s not to say that an audience is a bad thing. Rather it makes the concert feel more special for fans, as if it is a performance just for them. The set list, composed mainly of Metheny’s more recent material makes it even more interesting. That is because the featured songs show that Metheny is still just as talented today in his ability to compose new, original works as he was so many decades ago. The work of those charged with capturing Metheny’s performance and putting the final touches on it before it hit store shelves is just as impressive. It makes this concert one that will assuredly keep fans and audiences in general completely engaged from beginning to end. Of course for all of the importance of these elements, one would be remiss to ignore the recording’s companion booklet and bonus interview. Both elements add even more insight into the group’s performance in their own right. All things considered (<—->) The Unity Sessions proves in the end to be a recording in whole that while not a traditional live recording is still a live recording nonetheless and one that is one of the best of the year’s new live DVDs and Blu-rays. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:
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