Music Blu-ray Review: Pat Metheny - The Unity Sessions

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Taped live after the final stop of a 150-date world tour in support of his award-winning 2014 album KIN (←→), the newly-released Pat Metheny concert video The Unity Sessions offers nearly two hours of classic guitar-led jazz. The performance was captured in the intimate 5 Angels Theater in New York City, after all the officially-scheduled, audience-based concerts had ended. Metheny wanted to put the camera crew right in the midst of the music, allowing viewers to experience the performance more or less from the musicians' perspective. The idea was to enable the band as much quality-control over their performance as possible, delivering basically a live studio-type performance.

Metheny explains the approach himself: "The usual way [a concert recording] goes is to pick a venue and record or film a concert and hope for the best... I wondered: could we create an intimate experience where the cameras could almost be inside the music with us? Probably not in a normal live concert situation, since the kind of access I hoped to grant the camera crew would be totally distracting to paying ticket holders. But maybe without an audience in a setting where the intended audience would be the cameras themselves?"

That's exactly what they did and the result is a distinctly different viewing experience from a traditional concert video. If there's a downside, it's the lack of spontaneity that generally accompanies an audience-based live concert in which the musicians feed off the crowd's response. It might even be suggested a bit of unwelcome sterility (almost too perfect?) creeps into the proceedings, but honestly this is not a warning to avoid The Unity Sessions. By all means, Metheny enthusiasts should snatch this up ASAP, as the music here is phenomenal. Perhaps my favorite part is Metheny and sax player Chris Potter's duet on "Cherokee." But there isn't a dull moment in the show, with KIN (←→) tunes like "Rise Up" and "Sign of the Season" providing highlights.

Eagle Rock's Blu-ray boasts a sumptuous DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix that is incredible easy on the ears. This lossless audio allows for close listening of not only Metheny's guitar lines, but of each member of the Unity Band's contributions. The simpler alternative is the LPCM 2.0 stereo track, which a fine options as well. Framed at 1.78:1, the high definition video presentation is right on par with modern HD concert videography. The often highly dramatic stage lighting is well rendered here, retaining plenty of detail.

The two-hour concert has been supplemented about a 14-minute backstage interview with Metheny and the band.

For Pat Metheny fans, and jazz fans in general, The Unity Sessions is a remarkable, unmissable concert experience.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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