Monday, 13 February 2017

Pat Metheny / Ornette Coleman - Song X (1986)

Or, as ECM's Manfred Eicher probably called it - the one that got away.  Imagine how much of a game-changer this phenomenal meeting of minds would've been for the German label that had nurtured Metheny for a decade, with ECM regulars Haden & DeJohnette on board, not to mention the glittering prize of having free jazz legend Ornette Coleman sharing the bill.  The artwork would've been similarly minimal under Sascha Kleis' direction, and it would've deservedly remained an ECM bestseller to this day.

Unfortunately for Eicher, come 1985 Metheny was ready for a new challenge, and parted ways with ECM to land on David Geffen's burgeoning stable.  And what a fresh start Song X was - kicking off with the lightning-speed title track, this was free jazz updated for the amphetamine-yuppie era, and would've blown Huey and Genesis out of the water if introduced to Patrick Bateman's CD collection.  The 13-minute Endangered Species goes even further out, with Metheny exercising judicious use of the guitar synth (and wisely restraining himself from it for the bulk of the album, not unlike Belonging from three years prior, also with Haden).

The second half of the album is more accesible, and mellows out considerably with the gorgeous Kathelin Gray.  The clean production throughout (another ECM similarity!) ensures that you can get the most enjoyment possible out of each contributor, without the knottier passages becoming cluttered.  A stunning high watermark in 80s jazz.

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  1. I hadn't heard Manfred coveted this date. It probably would have been a better fit on early, pre 1975 ECM before things became more and more consistently ethereal. I saw this band in DC back in the day. Pretty stunning. Good choice.

  2. Must've been an awesome gig! I'm not sure of Manfred's thoughts on Song X either, was just thinking hypothetically. The more I get into 80s ECM, the more interesting curveballs I discover, which got me wondering if this amazing meeting would've gone ahead if Pat had stuck around.

  3. The 50footqueenie17 February 2017 at 23:08

    I remember buying the LP when it came out - every time I hear 'Endangered Species' I imagine every animal inside Noah's Ark tearing the fucking crap out of each other.