Here you have three absolutely breathtaking jazz performers locked into a studio for a day or so. From this combination of guitar, standup bass, and acoustic drum kit, you've got nine tracks of sheer jazz joy – three guys just blowing for the hell of it, recorded on the fly. There's a strong sense here that engineer Rob Eaton probably tried to get everybody properly set up and balanced before the session started and just gave up when everybody started playing. It's a delight to hear, because everything has gone into the performance, which is spontaneous and graceful – no going back for the next take here. Pat Metheny's playing is definitely modernistic, highly fluid, almost liquid lightning – no effects boxes here, though (he does play Synclavier on the last track, "Three Flights Up," but it's great anyway). Roy Haynes, likewise, should be heard by anybody wanting to get behind the traps: this man has a sense of humor, and he's a blur of motion. Dave Holland, on bass, is no slouch either, keeping pace with Metheny's guitar lines, and balancing up against Haynes' drums. Together, these guys are incredible.
This set, recorded at New York City's Bottom Line in September of 1978, is a wonderful example of the Pat Metheny Group onstage at this early stage, shortly after the release of their debut album. Not surprisingly, the set includes material from that album, but also explores older and side project material in the context of this quartet, as well and a couple of key compositions destined for the group's follow-up, American Garage. As such, this set serves up a fine example of what drew attention to this group in the first place and will be illuminating to anyone interested in this relatively early stage of Pat Metheny's career as a performing musician.
Pat Metheny emerges on his second album, Watercolors, as an ECM impressionist, generally conforming to the label's overall sound while still asserting his own personality. As the title suggests, there are several mood pieces here that are suspended in the air without rhythmic underpinning, a harbinger for the new age invasion still in the future. Metheny's softly focused, asymmetrical guitar style, with echoes of apparent influences as disparate as Jim Hall, George Benson, Jerry Garcia, and various country guitarists, is quite distinctive even at this early juncture.