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Since the mid-1970s, guitarist Pat Metheny has played in all kinds of groups: duos, trios, quartets, big bands, you name it. But 2010’s Orchestrion is unlike anything he’s ever done. After a casual listen, you probably wouldn’t know that this is a solo record; it sounds like the work of a medium-size ensemble. In fact, the guitarist is playing with a Metheny-programmed automaton orchestra that includes pianos, marimba, vibraphone, guitarbots, keyboard, percussion, and a variety of “custom-fabricated acoustic mechanical instruments.” The sounds can be triggered via guitar, keyboard, or computer. Amazingly, the music flows in human-like ways. There are occasional hints of the mechanistic —“Entry Point,” for instance, has stiff touches you might expect to hear from such a contraption. At various points, the plinking percussion brings to mind minimalist composers such as Steve Reich or Philip Glass. The self-titled opening track is representative of the whole: a lush arrangement provides a backdrop for Metheny’s fluid guitar. Orchestrion is an appealing, subtly strange album that isn’t quite like anything else.


Born: 12 August 1954 in Lee's Summit, MO

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most original guitarists from the '80s onward (he is instantly recognizable), Pat Metheny is a chance-taking player who has gained great popularity but also taken some wild left turns. His records with the Pat Metheny Group are difficult to describe (folk-jazz? mood music?) but manage to be both accessible and original, stretching the boundaries of jazz and making Metheny famous enough that he could perform whatever type of music he wanted without losing his audience. Metheny (whose...
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Orchestrion, Pat Metheny
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