From his earliest entry into the spotlight as a member of Gary Burton’s group some 40 years back, Pat Metheny has displayed a seemingly insatiable hunger for new experiences within the broader framework of jazz. Though his buttery guitar tone and eloquent phrasing provide a thread of continuity throughout Metheny’s storied career, the context is an ever-changing one. Metheny seems to thrive on new blood, new combinations of musicians and new technology, all of which have spurred him on toward new breakthroughs as both player and composer.
The latest of the many new convergences in Metheny’s career led to the formation of the Pat Metheny Unity Group, which released a bold and inspired album, “Kin” a few weeks back. For this project, Metheny retained his favored drummer in recent years, Antonio Sanchez, brought in revered saxophonist Chris Potter, and added bassist Ben Williams and multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi. The result is an ensemble that bears some resemblance to the late 1970s/early ’80s work of the Pat Metheny Group, particularly as that band sounded on the career-defining live album “Travels.” It’s a huge sound, one that deftly balances strictly composed motifs and harmonies against the highest level of improvisation and ensemble interplay.
The Unity Band performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts. Tickets are $37-$47 general, $27 students (box office, Tickets.com and www.ubcfa.org).
– Jeff Miers