Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pat Metheny - "Phase Dancer...Live '77"

Having played with Gary Burton, Jaco Pastorius and other leading fusion musicians, the prodigious Pat Metheny made his solo recording debut in 1976. The following year he released Watercolors, marking the start of his long collaboration with pianist Lyle Mays. That summer they played various dates (together with bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb). The superb tracks featured here include material from Watercolors and the forthcoming Pat Metheny Group album, and were originally broadcast on KJAZ-FM. They’re presented here together with background notes and images.

This short (34+ minutes) well recorded set of tunes from two separate concerts--The Great American Music Hall in S.F., (tracks 1,2,4), and the Seattle Opera House (track 3) are all from 1977. The songs are "Phase Dance", "Watercolors", "San Lorenzo", and "Wrong Is Right". The band consists of Metheny-guitars, Lyle Mays-keyboards, Danny Gottlieb-drums, and Mark Egan-bass. As I said, this is a well recorded set of live performances--clean and fairly crisp and very open sounding. Audiophiles may find something sonically imperfect to point out but this is very close to what a label sanctioned release would sound like. The booklet has an essay from the Village Voice from 1977 (typical for Hi Hat releases) and talks about Metheny's first album, "Bright Size Life" and the (then) recently released "Watercolors" album. The five "stars" are for the performances and nice sound--not the short duration of the CD. But I do wonder where is the rest of the music from these concerts? Hmmm.

These performances are from the period after the "Watercolors" album had been released, and the upcoming "Pat Metheny Group" album would be released. All four tunes are fine examples of what this group (and my personal favorite for a few reasons) sounded like night after night on stage during this period. The first two tunes stick closely to the studio originals (not a bad thing!), while "San Lorenzo" has a few subtle flourishes that add more identity to the melody. "Wrong Is Right" is a fine live version of this song, again with nothing truly new added into the body of the song. And as I wrote when reviewing the recently released/quickly taken off the market live Metheny album "Live Chicago '87" (also on Hi Hat) these performances aren't the sound of a band just going through the motions. This is a typically fine set of performances from the entire band.

Hearing this set along with the (now sadly) deleted '87 set brings back good memories of my young son and I sitting about 10 rows back/center section hearing/watching Metheny and his band playing some incredible music and having fun doing it. As Metheny once said--they play the music they want to hear--and are grateful that others like to hear it also. If you've ever been lucky enough to hear this band live you know what I mean. And even of a sadly short duration, this is a good set of music that evokes that era of Metheny's musical exploration.

The Pat Metheny Group was just getting into full swing around 1977. I was at this performance at the Great American Music Hall. It was a great show and made me a lifelong PMG fan. Unfortunately this disc only contains 3 tracks from that show, which if I'm not mistaken, was broadcast in its entirety by the late great KJZ in SF. (I used to have this same material on vinyl- can't remember what label it was on or how I came by it- if anyone remembers this I would appreciate what that was.) One can only hope that Somewhere, someone has the entire show on tape. I wish I could hear that! This is a teaser, and well worth hearing, but it just whets my appetite for more.

Listening to the early band reminds me how much I loved the group with Danny Gottlieb and Mark Egan. They played very dynamically, sometimes coming down to a whisper, sometimes to a roar. This was early, probably just before the white album was recorded.

The band starts out with a spirited version of Phase Dance. Still new, it's an exciting performance. Metheny sounds not quite in the pocket at times, still raw and finding his way. Lyle Mays gives a more sure footed solo. The song is already fully formed though, front to back. The high point for me is Watercolors, which to my knowledge is the only recorded performance by this particular configuration. By 1978 they were no longer including it in their sets. It's a great performance of a great tune-this disc is worth the price just for this track. San Lorenzo, recorded at the Seattle opera house, is a glimpse into the early stages of development of a classic. It's all there, but It's loose compared with the album version, and not as majestic as it would become as evidenced on the Travels version, with its lovely rubato passages and dramatic tempo changes. The last track, Wrong is Right, which I believe is a Larry Coryell tune, is played as a fast samba and is the most straight ahead track here. And as such it's a smoker. Lyle's solo is off the charts, and Metheny is on fire here.

Quite honestly, if you own every single PMG CD already and love this period as much as I do, you should pick this up. It's an historical document. It's to my knowledge, the earliest PMG on record, although I'm sure there are plenty of bootlegs out there. (Check out the 1977 performance in a small club in Germany. which is up on YouTube.)

Pat Metheny is one of my all time favorites and to find this release, thank you Amazon for finding this one for me. This was a point in time when Pat and his group were just starting out, here we have that great group that did those Pat Metheny Group and American Garage but this is before either where recorded. What a great set list, personally still Phase Dancer and San Lorenzo are two of my favorites. Lyle and Pat shine and have always played so well together and do a wonderful job on this one. This is from a radio concert, it seems like a lot of these are coming out which I love. I always love live stuff and is this one ever alive. I miss hearing Lyle and Pat playing together. This is a great release.

Tracks 1, 2 & 4 recorded at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco on
August 31st 1977.
Track 3 recorded at Seattle Opera House on September 4th 1977.

Track listing:

1 Phase Dancer 8:52
2 Watercolors 7:56
3 San Lorenzo 11:08
4 Wrong Is Right  6:40


Pat Metheny - Guitar
Lyle Mays - Keyboards
Mark Egan - Bass
Danny Gottlieb - Drums


  1. http://www34.zippyshare.com/v/WVEKTEW9/file.html

  2. Thanks for this fine reminiscence, very much appreciated! Brings back some fine memories to me.

  3. Thanks a lot !!!

  4. thanks here;s pat's warner promo album from willards old blog http://www17.zippyshare.com/v/cvlcWSTE/file.html

  5. Thanks C420
    An early PMG album I didn't have

  6. Early gem. Thank you.