Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Pat Metheny Group - 1984 "First Circle"

First Circle is a Grammy Award–winning jazz album by the Pat Metheny Group released in 1984. Metheny is joined by Lyle Mays on keyboards, Steve Rodby on bass, Paul Wertico on drums, and Pedro Aznar on vocals, percussion, and guitar. First Circle won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance.

Two personnel changes occurred. Drummer Danny Gottlieb was replaced by Paul Wertico, and the Group was joined by multi-instrumentalist Pedro Aznar, who had already established himself with the band Serú Girán in his native Argentina.

On First Circle, the Group used instruments it hadn't recorded with before, including the sitar ("Yolanda, You Learn"), trumpet ("Forward March"), and agogo bells ("Tell It All"). The first song, "Forward March", with Lyle Mays on trumpet, uses dissonant, out-of-tune chords and shifting time signatures. On puttiing the song first, Metheny remarked that it "seemed like a good idea at the time."

This was the first Group album to feature a song with written lyrics, "Más Allá," by Aznar.

First Circle expanded the scope of the Group's music. In a podcast retrospective, Metheny remarked that the album brought the Group to a creative high that he had been seeking since its foundation. "With the record, First Circle, I finally felt like the Group was what I hoped it might be someday...there was this feeling of, 'Okay, we've done it. We can go anywhere now.'" He stated that First Circle, Still Life (Talking), and Letter from Home, among the Group's most popular albums, were part of a trilogy connected by their musical explorations and accessibly melodic personalities.

In First Circle, the Pat Metheny Group settled into a lineup that lasted for quite a while -- with Metheny, keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Steve Rodby, and new drummer Paul Wertico forming the core quartet. The ever-restless Metheny also mixes up the music, not quite leaving the Brazilian glide behind but coming up with some fascinating permutations always affixed with his personal stamp. "Forward March," the album opener, is a bizarre parody full of detuned instruments and half-cocked trumpet from Mays; one wonders if this was directed at a few silly skirmishes of the day (Grenada? the Falklands?). "The First Circle" has Brazilian elements, but now in the service of a grander architectural context, while nothing could be simpler and yet more sophisticated than the delicate ballad "If I Could." "End of the Game" might be the best track on the record, equipped with a beautiful pop-flavored set of tunes and harmonies, with a rock beat fused to the floating ambience of South America as personified by the new Argentine percussionist/vocalist Pedro Aznar. "Praise," the closer, is an out-and-out rock tune, an affirmative flip side of "Forward March" and the last of a series of delightful surprises.

I listened to this cassette quite a bit back in 1985 and then left it for quite a while. Last year (2003), I was amazed to find myself humming "Yolanda, You Learn" and ordered the CD from Amazon. Discovering this music all over again was a joy. To me, this is a CD of uplifting, joyous music made by fantastic musicians offering up some incredible performances.

While I have listened to other Metheny releases, nothing has touched me like this one. I would loved to have given this five stars, but the decision to include "Forward March" was a mistake. Fortunately, modern CD players can be programmed to skip tracks. My favorite tracks are "Yolanda, You Learn," "The First Circle," and "Praise." "If I Could" is so beautiful in its simplicity as to bring you to goosebumps and tears.
If you are a guitarist or lover of Brazilian music, this CD is a must-have. This release is totally accessible to all lovers of quality music. Highly recommended.

With "Phase Dance" and, "Are You Going With Me?" the album's title track, "The First Circle", became one of the Group's most popular songs.

Track listing:

1. "Forward March" (Metheny) 2:47
2. "Yolanda, You Learn" 4:43
3. "The First Circle" 9:10
4. "If I Could" (Metheny) 6:54
5. "Tell It All" 7:55
6. "End of the Game" 7:57
7. "Más Allá (Beyond)" (Metheny/Pedro Aznar) 5:37
8. "Praise" 4:19


Pat Metheny – guitar, Synclavier guitar, sitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar
Lyle Mays – piano, synthesizers, Oberheim, agogô bells, organ, trumpet
Steve Rodby – bass guitar, acoustic bass, bass drum
Pedro Aznar – glockenspiel, voice, bells, acoustic guitar, percussion, whistle, guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar
Paul Wertico – drums, field drum, cymbal


  1. http://www102.zippyshare.com/v/QHdNGuOE/file.html

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing. I had the CD but it was stolen from home. I really love this album, except for the first song...

  3. Thank you so much!

  4. Thank you so much!