Throughout its 25-year history, the Pat Metheny Group has consistently had the power to reinvent itself, developing an ever-broader musical vision. Speaking of Now reflects substantial changes since the band was last assem... more »bled. The core remains intact, with Lyle Mays, Metheny's composing partner since the beginning, still contributing keyboards and some eloquent acoustic piano. Bassist Steve Rodby is here as well, but there are some new additions. Mexican-born drummer Antonio Sanchez is a creative fountain of rhythm, while Richard Bona, from Cameroon, has joined the band on vocals and percussion. There's an unearthly serenity in Bona's high-pitched vocals and they've clearly shaped some of the composing here. Trumpeter Cuong Vu's presence marks the first time a horn player has been a member of PMG, and his laconic, airy trumpet is a perfect complement to Metheny's guitar. The Group has always had the ability to fuse elements from different cultures into a graceful and floating whole, but this version sets new standards for sheer sonic beauty, like the welling orchestral breadth that underscores Bona's voice on "You." Highlights seem to abound, but the guitar solos on "Proof" and "A Place in the World" testify to Metheny's inspiration. --Stuart Broomer« less
Throughout its 25-year history, the Pat Metheny Group has consistently had the power to reinvent itself, developing an ever-broader musical vision. Speaking of Now reflects substantial changes since the band was last assembled. The core remains intact, with Lyle Mays, Metheny's composing partner since the beginning, still contributing keyboards and some eloquent acoustic piano. Bassist Steve Rodby is here as well, but there are some new additions. Mexican-born drummer Antonio Sanchez is a creative fountain of rhythm, while Richard Bona, from Cameroon, has joined the band on vocals and percussion. There's an unearthly serenity in Bona's high-pitched vocals and they've clearly shaped some of the composing here. Trumpeter Cuong Vu's presence marks the first time a horn player has been a member of PMG, and his laconic, airy trumpet is a perfect complement to Metheny's guitar. The Group has always had the ability to fuse elements from different cultures into a graceful and floating whole, but this version sets new standards for sheer sonic beauty, like the welling orchestral breadth that underscores Bona's voice on "You." Highlights seem to abound, but the guitar solos on "Proof" and "A Place in the World" testify to Metheny's inspiration. --Stuart Broomer
"The Pat Metheny Group have really challenged themselves musically since its inception 25 years ago. The results have been very delightful and impressive and of course their multiple grammy's are well deserved. Pat Metheny Group has found a very significant spot in modern jazz. I have listened to their latest recording "Speaking of Now" from Warner Bros. It is a magnificent documentation of how expansive music and jazz in particular can be. The album most closely resembles some of their earlier recordings including "First Circle", however the Group has gone places musically where they have never gone before with the addition of three new band members. We hear traces of African music, Jazz, Blues, and Pop music on this album.1. As It Is 7:40
This piece starts off beautifully with a "Beatles like" beat. Pat plays guitar synthesizer about 3 minutes and 20 seconds into the recording and his playing is complimented by Antonios wonderful rythmic patterns and Steve's supportive bass line. A great tune.2. Proof 10:13
This one is fast paced and shows off Antonios' unique drumming skills. It is one piece that has a straight ahead jazz feel to it where Pat and Lyle provide killer solos. Cuong Vu plays trumpet flawlessly.3. Another Life 7:08
This tune starts off with a beautiful vocal segment from Richard and Coung and is proceeded with Pat playing acoustic guitar. It falls back into the vocal segment, then Pat picks up again on acoustic guitar. A very beautiful piece.4. The Gathering Sky 9:22
This piece starts off with an African pop flavored beat it continues into an optimistic and highly melodic piece, eventually picking up speed. As the piece gets closer to the end Lyle gets on the synthesizer and does his thing with exotic percussion in the background. 5. You 8:24
Here is where Richard Bona sings similarly to Pedro Aznar in First circle or Nana Vasconcelos in Travels. Excellent composition from Pat. Very soft, very romantic.6. On Her Way 6:04
This one has a very uplifting feel to it. This one is cool. Lots of guitar soloing from Pat, complimenting the voice section. 7. A Place In The World 9:52
Modern jazz at its best. Cuong provides really beautiful trumpet solo. Lyle provides a pleasant piano solo performance. Pat gets to strum his guitar here.8. Afternoon 4:43
This is one of my favorite pieces on the album. Richard is the lead singer here too, suggesting that he has picked up where Pedro left off. Antonio displays very impressive drumming.
"Afternoon" represents the best in pop music.9. Wherever You Go 8:04
A very melodic piece. This is definitly the best way to end the album.This is Pat Metheny Group's most revealing effort to date. I highly recommend "Speaking of Now"."
Stunningly beautiful & uplifting sounds for a post 911 world
William Merrill | San Antonio, TX United States | 02/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The praiseworthy aspects of this new PMG disc are so numerous, but let me mention just a few. First and most important, the songs all have an open, soaring and joyful quality that says the human spirit can endure and even triumph over sorrow - certainly a most relevant message for today. Longtime fans of Pat and the PMG know that the Metheny-Mays songwriting partnership has yielded many such uplifting compositions, but Speaking Of Now is positively chock-full of them.Second, there are the wonderful performances by each member of the group. The new CD gives each musician several chances to step forward into the spotlight, but of course the synergy from the different players working together is what produces the greatest moments of transcendence. The 3 newest members add unique flavors to the group's sound, especially trumpeter Cuong Vu, a Vietnamese American now living in NYC. Drummer Antonio Sanchez (from Mexico) and vocalist/percussionist Richard Bona (Cameroon) also provide very valuable contributions.A third element I really dig about the CD is the diversity of the material. Things like Pat's liquid guitar lines and Lyle Mays' resonant piano chords are very familiar, but those elements are now offered in new and varied settings like the dreamy folk-pop of "You" or a busy urban collage ("Proof"). Wordless vocals have long been a characteristic of PMG albums going all the way back to Nana Vasconcelos' tenure, but Mr. Bona's singing gives the songs more of an earthly context that contrasts nicely with all the lightness of Pat and Lyle's often airy textures. Sometimes it almost sounds like he is singing a lyric, but when I listen closely I can't make out any actual words.Just 2 other notes:
.... .... ...."
71 Minutes of Brilliant Contemporary Music
Kynan Kourday | San Francisco, CA United States | 02/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Once again, the Pat Metheny Group has reinvented themselves with the addition of 3 new members. Antonio Sanchez on drums adds a whole new level of excitement with his superlative percussion work. Cuong Vu becomes the first dedicated trumpet player and his spacey Mark Isham like sound fits perfectly into the dense harmonic arrangements of their music. Finally, Richard Bona's deep and smooth vocal style rekindles the Brazilian aspects of the group which were left out in their previous CD Imaginary Day. Speaking of Now is 71 minutes of tight, intense, uplifting, and musically complex sounds that this group has never put together before on one single recording. There is not one single track on this recording that you won't want to listen to over and over again. A few tracks deserve special mention, as they are show stoppers when they take this CD on their 2002 World Tour. "Proof" is modern jazz at its finest, with an intense electrifying sound to it, even though both Lyle Mays (piano) and Cuong Vu (trumpet) solo on acoustic instruments. Pat Metheny's blistering dissonant electric guitar solo is one his most creative and exciting ever recorded in the studio, and you cannot help but marvel at the interplay between the guitar, bass by Steve Rodby, and drums by Antonio Sanchez. Lyle's piano solo is equally complex and demanding as he has never sounded better in the PMG's group context. His solo on this track alone exemplifies how he is one of the finest jazz pianists of our day."A Place in the World" is simply a stunning composition reminiscent of "The First Circle" from the 1980's when Pedro Aznar was their first featured vocalist. Again, Lyle delivers a well paced and harmonically dense solo that fits the piece like a glove. The melody of this song is so beautiful that it may reverberate in your mind for days after you first hear it.The final track "Wherever You Go" is well placed at the end. It starts out with simple melody that leads into a long guitar solo that is built around constantly shifting chord changes and a tempo that increases in pace as the solo develops. It is another example of how Pat Metheny can craft a solo on electric guitar with a beginning, middle and end, like no other guitarist on this planet can. What makes this particular solo so memorable is how he develops is over constantly shifting chord and tempo changes. The last part of the track adds the vocals of Richard Bona and Cuong Vu to a circular melodic theme that changes pitch and key as it builds to a climax. Once again, this is another melody that you will be hearing in your mind well after the CD is finished playing.Simply put, this is the best CD by the Pat Metheny Group to date, and contemporary music just does not get any better than this.
Play it loud, as this is not smooth jazz.
It is music that defies categorization. It is music that will lift your spirits, challenge your mind, and make this world just a little bit more enjoyable to live in.Addendum: Response to the negative criticism of this CD.
I must admit that I am shocked by all the negative reviews of this CD, which I believe is the groups best and most sophisticated to date. Two ideas come to mind.1. PLAY IT LOUD. When I first heard Still Life (Talking), I thought that Pat Metheny was making a recording that intentionally was meant to satirize smooth jazz. The first track, Minuano, is stunningly beautiful. And "So May it Secretly Begin" is a brilliant tribute to his idol Wes Montgomery. "Last Train Home" is overrated, and lacks anything memorable. The rest of the is nice but nothing notable.
Play that CD loud and it sounds a lot better.
Speaking of Now dwarfs Still Life in every way imaginable. It draws upon many of his world music influences, yet at its core is a solid jazz base that eclipses any previous group effort in its sophistication. In order to appreciate the complexity of this recording, it must be played loud, and the brilliant subtleties begin to shine.2. Accessibility is not a negative. What struck me at first when hearing this CD is how accessible each tune is on first listening. They are all new melodies, yet they sound as if they have been in my psyche for years. Many of the songs created an intense emotional reaction on first, and subsequent listenings.
This CD summarizes the essence of what Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays are all about: Taking modern jazz in a new direction that constantly surprises, teases, and massages one's aural and kinesthetic senses.
Don't let the accessibility of this music fool you. It is complex, dense, lush, and beautiful in ways never before achieved by this group."
Matthew Lloyd | San Diego, CA | 07/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an extremely rich and very well crafted CD. The compositions are superb; all the usual PMG features are there - the careful attention to harmonic development, catchy melodies which don't tire long-term, a great deal of rhythmic interest, excellent comping from Lyle, a well balanced sound, plenty of breath to sing along to, and solos which are stories in themselves. Add to all that what's new with this album: an extremely talented drummer allowing for grooves PMG have never been able to play before, a vocalist to excel like the sorely missed Pedro Aznar who featured all too briefly in PMG's discography, and a highly innovative trumpet player, and reap the complex crossrhythms, scintillating solos and new sounds.For some this album may seem backward compared to recent adventures such as Imaginary Day and We Live Here from which we have come to expect every PMG album to sound totally different from what's come before; on the surface, Speaking of Now sounds similar to older PMG albums like First Circle and Letter From Home. But that's just the surface, because beneath the calm cool familiar overall sound are all those new features, but you may have to listen real hard to get them. This is an album which requires 100% attention and maybe several undisturbed listening sessions to be understood and the music grasped. It only sounds like lift music if you turn it down real quiet on your hi-fi and have a conversation at the same time... but that's just not the point of what these amazingly talented musicians are doing. For anyone who's prepared to put in serious listening time, the rewards are great. This is an album you'll love forever. With every listen there will be new details in the solos, the harmonies, the melodies, the communication, for you to notice. You may never tire of this album..."