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Legendary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny returned to Anthology last night, debuting his brand new group Unity Band with saxophonist/bass clarinetist Chris Potter, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Antonio Sanchez in an exhilarating set that connected past, present and future into a satisfying whole.

The concert began when Metheny ascended the stage, alone with his 42-string "Pikasso-guitar." From the very first notes, a state of reverie was achieved. Part guitar, part harp, koto, bass and auto-harp, the Eastern textures Metheny elicits from this instrument draw the listener into his dream world.

The full band came one for "Come & See," from the new Unity Band record, and the guitarist ripped into an archetypal solo that showcased his uncanny ability to blend pure diatonic ideas with chromatic connective material. Williams got a feature here, lithe and grainy with personal ideas--he's a real find.

"Roof Dogs," found Metheny's guitar-synth and Potter's soprano locking horns over the shrieking theme before the guitarist's serpentine legato and Herculean held-notes led the way. Potter charted a chirping course between the towers of Liebman and Lacy --branching out with skeins of melody and screaming outbursts.

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Metheny led off "New Year," on nylon string guitar, combining piquant single-notes with lush harmonies, and when Potter came in on tenor they created some of the most compelling melodies since the epochal 80-81.

The ecstasy factor came swooping down with a manic reading of the Ornette Coleman gem, "Law Years," Metheny racing in with his Roy Clark meets Pete Cosey solo, then Antonio Sanchez delivered a marvelous drum spot that veered from explosion-loud to pin-drop quiet.

Metheny reprised "Folk Song # 1," from 80-81, drawing out a screaming solo from Potter, who exploited the altissimo register of his horn to great effect--then the guitarist unveiled a scaled-down version of his Orchestrion project for a dramatic, visually stunning demonstration.

After a long, raucous standing ovation, Metheny returned to the stage alone, with his baritone guitar, and proceeded to trace long arcs from his extraordinary career with a spectacular, improvised medley that began with a snippet of "Phase Dance," morphing into "Minuano," something from "Secret Story," and, ultimately ending on "This Is Not America." It was a magical way to end an amazing concert.

photos by Bonnie Wright

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