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PAT METHENY GROUP The PMG Companion, Vol. II: 1981 – 1982 The Travels Companion [FLAC}

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The PMG Companion, Vol. II: 1981 – 1982
‘The Travels Companion”

Pat Metheny: Guitars, Guitar Synthesizer, Synclavier Guitar prototype
Lyle Mays: Piano, Synthesizers, Organ, Autoharp, Synclavier
Steve Rodby: Acoustic and Electric Bass
Dan Gottlieb: Drums
Special guest Nana Vasconcelos: Percussion, Voice, Berimbau

Disc 1:

01. Better Days Ahead (early version) (Metheny, or Metheny-Mays)
07:00 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 1, 1981)

Credited solely to Metheny when it finally appeared on the PMG’s 1989 album, Letter From
Home, this early draft, performed only in the late-winter and spring of 1981, may have
included compositional input from Mays. Gone from the 1989 studio version and subsequent
live performances was the fanfare-like bridge, which serves, first, as the introduction,
and then reappears mid-song to preface Mays’ piano solo. Also gone was the delicate
down-tempo section, heard just before the second appearance of the bridge.

“Better Days Ahead” was the only new song performed in 1981 and 1982 to feature Rodby on
the electric bass. Apart from the contributions of Vasconcelos, in its instrumentation (and,
perhaps, from a compositional standpoint, as well) it is this piece, of the new ones, that
is the most reminiscent of the music of the original PMG. On those nights when it appeared,
“Better Days Ahead” was played second, after the traditional opener, “Phase Dance.” Of those
available for inclusion, this - one of its first performances - was judged to be the
“definitive” version.

02. The Windup (late-1981 arrangement) (Keith Jarrett)
07:43 (Victoria, British Columbia, November 7, 1981)

Although an exciting performance of this early PMG set list staple appeared on Volume 1, the
Group’s late-1981 arrangement of “The Windup” merits inclusion here. Earlier in the year,
performances began with an improvised guitar and percussion duet, which would segue directly
into a full-ensemble statement of Jarrett’s demanding theme. By November, when the PMG
emerged from studio sessions for the Offramp album to perform shows in northwestern North
America and then Japan, a momentum-building, full-ensemble improvisation had been added to
the introduction, between the guitar/percussion duet and the theme. This performance is one
of the few available to feature the expanded introduction.

It should be noted that “The Windup” had been used in the first years of the PMG as Mays’
piano feature in a three-part suite, linked to Metheny’s feature (usually “Unity Village”)
by a solo guitar improvisation. By 1981 the song stood alone, and appeared far earlier in
the set. “The Windup” was the second selection of the night, after “Phase Dance,” or the
third, on those occasions in the late-winter and spring of 1981 when the early version of
“Better Days Ahead” was played.

03. Turnaround (Ornette Coleman)
08:25 (Seattle, Washington, November 9, 1981)

In May of 1980, Metheny recorded a trio version of this straight-ahead Ornette Coleman blues
with Charlie Haden (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) for his fourth Pat Metheny album,
80/81. Although it remained, for the most part, a vehicle for guitar trio when it was added
to the PMG’s repertoire in 1981, Mays did contribute acoustic piano to the opening and
closing theme statements.

Rodby was given an extraordinary number of soloing opportunities (by PMG standards) during
the 1981 and 1982 tours, and this performance of “Turnaround” features the first of a number
of his bass solos to be found in this collection. Of the many versions available for
inclusion, this one was chosen on the merits of Metheny’s and Rodby’s jubilant solos, and
for having the added distinction of being the only performance in which Metheny can be heard
providing the bassist with subtle structural support while he improvises.

Metheny still favors “Turnaround” in trio and other outside-the-Group settings, sometimes
using it to open concerts. He recorded a second studio version with saxophonist Joshua
Redman, Haden, and drummer Billy Higgins for their 1993 album-length collaboration, Redman’s

04. Unidentified #6 (incorporating the theme to “Au Lait”) (Metheny-Mays)
18:05 (Providence, Rhode Island, March 11, 1981)

Although Metheny had already thrilled audiences with his new Roland GR-300 guitar
synthesizer several times by this point in early-1981 concerts, this is the instrument’s
first appearance here. Mays can also be heard for the first time in this collection – and
to very good effect – making use of the capabilities of the Synclavier.

How does one begin to describe this wacky, wonderful, shape-shifting monster, certainly one
of the most peculiar long-form compositions in the PMG songbook? In its scope, and in its
attempt to tie together a variety of disparate themes and forms – from Metheny blowing over
the insistent swing of a John Lee Hooker-like boogie that morphs into a more straight-ahead
jazz figure anchored by a walking bass line, into a section featuring a march rhythm (not
unlike the one used in Letter From Home’s “Every Summer Night”), into another complete
run-through of the opening movement (this time with Mays as the soloist), into the effective
transition Gottlieb executes with his focused drum solo, into Mays’ haunting theme to “Au
Lait” (which would be embellished by Metheny later in the year for the co-written version
found on the Offramp album), into Rodby’s pathos-heavy acoustic bass solo (listen, also, for
his humorous nod to Paul Chambers’ bass line to Miles Davis’ “All Blues” just before he
invites the rest of the Group back to the proceedings), and back into the boogie again for
the finale - it is this piece, more than any other, which foreshadows the approach Metheny
and Mays would take when composing their 2005 album-length opus, “The Way Up.”

Like the early draft of “Better Days Ahead,” “Unidentified #6” was performed only in the
late-winter and spring of 1981.

05. Mas Alla (Beyond) (early version) (Metheny)
08:31 (Rochester, New York, June 26, 1981)

This beautiful ballad wouldn’t find its “voice” - or its title - for a couple of years,
when Pedro Aznar joined the Group. Aznar, from Argentina, would write and sing (angelically)
Spanish lyrics for Metheny’s melody, and the song in its final form would find just the
right home as “Mas Alla (Beyond)” on the PMG’s 1984 album featuring Aznar, First Circle.

More an effective “vocal colorist” than an accomplished singer like Aznar, Vasconcelos
struggles with Metheny’s melody in this early version, for which he wrote lyrics in his
native language, Portuguese. Perhaps due to his inability to fulfill Metheny’s aspirations
for the piece, this performance is one of only two known attempts during Vasconcelos’
two-year stay with the Group. The Roland, the Synclavier, and the berimbau (on which
Vasconcelos mimics wildlife sounds, like those heard the following year in the pastoral
“Farmers Trust”) figure prominently.

06. (It's Just) Talk (early version) (Metheny)
07:17 (St. Louis, Missouri, July 20, 1982)

Most of the raw ingredients of what would become “(It’s Just) Talk” on the PMG’s 1987 album,
Still Life (Talking), are here, but the song wouldn’t be finished until Metheny and Mays
were writing the film soundtrack to John Schlesinger’s political thriller, The Falcon And
The Snowman, and trying to come up with a theme for one of its main characters, Daulton Lee.
(The composers ended up writing another, more appropriate theme for Daulton.) Unlike the
studio recording, which includes a piano solo, Metheny is the lone soloist in performances
of the early version. Vasconcelos is heard on congas, accentuating the tune’s Latin flavor.

The early version of “(It’s Just) Talk” appeared occasionally in the summer and fall of
1982. Of the performances available for inclusion, this one was chosen for featuring Metheny’s
most lyrical improvising, which commences almost immediately and continues for most of the

07. More Kansas City (Metheny)
09:41 (Berkeley, California, July 30, 1982)

Also introduced in the summer of 1982, “More Kansas City” (sometimes incorrectly identified
on collector’s set lists as “K.C. Blues”) is a swinging tribute to the storied jazz-centric
Missouri city near Metheny’s hometown of Lee’s Summit. The young guitarist appeared on many
an accomplished musician’s Kansas City bandstand while still in high school, and credits
those experiences with aiding in his rapid development. Like “Turnaround,” this blues is
primarily a vehicle for guitar trio, with Mays contributing to the opening and closing theme
statements. Again, it features an acoustic bass solo by Rodby with support from Metheny, who
chords softly while the bassist improvises.

“More Kansas City” was performed sporadically through the end of the 1984 First Circle
tour, after which it disappeared from the Group’s set lists. Like the PMG’s cover of Keith
Jarrett’s “The Windup” and “Unidentified #6,” it remains unreleased. Metheny did revive the
tune in 1993 for his tour with Joshua Redman, but it did not appear on Wish, their
accompanying commercial release.

08. Six And Eleven (Metheny, or Metheny-Mays)
08:37 (New York, New York, November 24, 1982)

Still another composition that remains unreleased, this exercise in equal parts abandon
and finesse was performed only in October and November of 1982, at the same concerts that
introduced “Travels,” “Extradition,” “Farmers Trust,” “Goodbye,” “The Fields, The Sky” and
“Straight On Red” (all of which - along with “Song For Bilbao,” introduced earlier in the
year - can be found on Travels). It’s a fascinating piece. After the Group’s precise
ensemble playing of the tricky theme, Mays lays out while Metheny shreds on the Roland
a la “Offramp,” with Rodby and Gottlieb providing propulsive rhythmic support. Rodby
eventually falls away, too, leaving Gottlieb’s muscular drumming to serve as Metheny’s
lone accompaniment. Towards the end of Metheny’s solo Rodby returns, and then Mays re-enters
for the second theme statement and his piano solo. One of the most interesting aspects of
the composition is that, while Metheny takes things pretty far “outside” during his solo,
Mays chooses to play it straight during his turn, revealing the “inside” characteristics at
the heart of the piece.

The title may be a reference to the traditional broadcast times of local TV newscasts in
U.S.A.cities. At the time the piece was written, Metheny was involved in a romantic
relationship with a reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston, Massachusetts.

Disc 2:

01. Broadway Blues (Ornette Coleman)
07:30 (Rochester, Michigan, July 14, 1982)

“Broadway Blues” appeared on Metheny’s 1976 debut, Bright Size Life (with Jaco Pastorius,
bass, and Bob Moses, drums), but it wasn’t until 1982 that the PMG performed it on stage.
All of the other songs on Bright Size Life (except “Omaha Celebration,” which Metheny did
play occasionally as part of an improvised solo guitar medley) had been given the Group
treatment during the years of the original lineup, and performances of each appeared on
Volume 1. In the summer of 1982, “Broadway Blues” replaced “The Windup” in the set and was
given a close-to-identical arrangement - introduced, as was “The Windup,” by an improvised
guitar and percussion duet. Of the versions available for inclusion, this performance
features one of Mays’ most memorable solo piano improvisations, distinguished by its
inventive variations on Coleman’s theme.

02. solo Synclavier guitar prototype improvisation (Metheny) 03 :22 >
03. Mars (later retitled Close To Home) (1982 arrangement) (Mays) 12:20
(Norman, Oklahoma, July 22, 1982, late show)

On the summer 1982 tour, “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls,” and the stage-setting
solo guitar improvisation that preceded it, were replaced in the set list by this pairing.
Mays’ “Mars” was given the full Wichita treatment, going so far into Wichita territory as
to use the same type of swirling, Synclavier-generated chords in its new introduction that
we hear at the end of the studio version of “Wichita.” Perhaps “Mars,” written in 1979, was
originally intended to be side two of Metheny’s and Mays’ joint studio venture. Even its
title, and the title “Close To Home” that Mays gave it when he recorded it for his debut
album, can be interpreted to support this theory (if one views Mars as a possible home for
Earth’s inhabitants, after Earth “falls”). Connected or not, this poignant reading stands
as the “definitive” performance of the 1982 Wichita-like arrangement of “Mars.”

Metheny had begun using the portable, computer-based Synclavier as a mobile “recording
studio” and composing tool in 1981. From the beginning, he was interested in working with
New England Digital to develop a fret board-controlled system, similar to Mays’
keyboard-controlled system, which would allow it to be used in live performance. By the
summer of 1982, New England Digital was sending Metheny prototypes to try out on the road.
The first attempt had no strings - it was played by tapping the neck with both hands, in
the technique popularized by guitarist Stanley Jordan - and it didn’t work properly when
Metheny’s hands were sweating. Subsequent prototypes had strings, but it wasn’t until later
in the year, when New England Digital created an interface for the Roland, that the
Synclavier guitar was born. What we hear here is almost certainly one of the prototypes
with strings.

For the summer 1982 concerts, Metheny used the Synclavier guitar prototype to play “vibes,”
and improvised a lead-in to “Mars” that was similar in effect to those he’d played on
electric guitar as a lead-in to “Wichita.” By happy coincidence, this exquisite performance
of “Mars” is prefaced by one of Metheny’s most melodious improvisations.

Bonus Tracks:

04. James (Metheny-Mays)
08:33 (Burlington, Vermont, March 12, 1981)

What makes this performance of “James” such a rarity is that, of the many played in 1981
and 1982, this is the only available version to include the Mays-composed introduction that
opens the Offramp studio recording. The introduction serves as the perfect launching pad for
this tribute to the music of James Taylor, and, perhaps due to its inclusion here, this
performance comes closest to capturing the special, relaxed feel of the studio version.

05. Offramp (Metheny-Mays)
08:32 (Rochester, New York, June 26, 1981)

As previously noted in the foreword, “Offramp” was 1981 audiences’ first exposure to
Metheny’s new Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer. A tribute to Ornette Coleman and the impact
of his revolutionary harmolodic theory, the piece does have an underlying structure that,
among other things, allows the ensemble to start and stop on a dime each time the difficult,
precision-intensive theme rolls around. Mays, by way of the Synclavier, doubles Metheny’s
Roland during the theme statements, and the two instruments sound so much alike as to be
practically indistinguishable.

While most performances were characterized by Metheny’s blazing, pedal-to-the-metal Roland
blowouts, this version was chosen for inclusion on the basis of his solo, especially in the
early going, having more of a lyrical quality, with a greater emphasis on phrasing. (Listen
for his short, playful reference to Coleman’s “Broadway Blues.”) Another interesting
difference is the almost hesitant way in which the Group coalesces again after Rodby’s
“free” solo, finally playing the first chorus of the closing theme statement in what sounds
like half time. Gottlieb seems to have been particularly moved by this version of “Offramp."
This is the only performance of the many available in which he adds an “exclamation point”
(an extra snare shot) after its dead-stop conclusion.

06. "It's For You" (Metheny-Mays)
07:35 (Rochester, Michigan, July 14, 1982)

Here’s the “definitive” full-Group performance of a fan favorite from Metheny’s and Mays’
As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. The most notable difference between the
Metheny/Mays/Vasconcelos studio version and the live PMG arrangement - in that Metheny
contributed a bass track to the studio recording - is the always welcome presence of
Gottlieb’s drumming. Live versions, of course, also featured a satisfying resolution,
whereas the studio version fades while Metheny is still soloing.

The widely circulated Rochester, MI show exhibited the best sound when choosing some of the
raw tracks for this compilation, and, in the case of this tune, Metheny’s acoustic guitar,
heard in the opening sections, had a fuller, more natural sound than other contenders. This
performance, happily, also features one of Metheny’s most exhilarating “It’s For You” solo

07. The Bat part II (Metheny-Mays) 04:08 >
08. solo berimbau improvisation (Vasconcelos) 02 :23 >
09. Ozark (Metheny-Mays) 04:54
(Norman, Oklahoma, July 22, 1982, early show)

Since 1978, a PMG concert wouldn’t have been complete without one of their trademark
three-part suites. In 1981 and 1982, “The Bat part II” (found on Offramp) and “Ozark”
(found on As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls) were linked by a solo berimbau
improvisation. An instrument of amazing versatility in a master’s hands, Vanconcelos’
berimbau figured prominently in the studio versions of both pieces.

The Group’s re-imagining of a composition Metheny had recorded with Charlie Haden, Jack
DeJohnette and saxophonists Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker for 80/81, “The Bat part II,”
is a reflective, through-composed piece, and was played virtually the same way every night.
This performance of the suite was chosen on the strength of Vasconcelos’ berimbau
improvisation and for Mays’ beautiful piano solo in the rolling “Ozark.”

10. Jaco (1981-1982 arrangement) (Metheny)
06:01 (Rochester, Michigan, July 14, 1982)

A new arrangement of “Jaco” made it’s debut in 1981 and, by the summer of 1982, appeared as
the last song of the set proper, before the encores. It features a faster tempo, altered
instrumentation, a yelping Vasconcelos, a mid-song drums and congas duet, and a new section,
heard before the false ending, that recalls Weather Report’s “Birdland.” Another point of
difference is the absence of a guitar solo. Instead, as befits the song’s namesake, Rodby
is the lone soloist, this time on electric bass. Rather than take a decidedly Jaco-like
approach, Rodby plays a string-popping solo on a bass guitar with frets.

This perennial favorite from 1978’s eponymous Pat Metheny Group album was retired from PMG
set lists in late 1982 with the introduction of “Straight On Red” (found on Travels), which
employed the same type of mid-song interlude for drums and percussion.

11. (Cross The) Heartland (Metheny-Mays) 07:29
12. American Garage (Metheny-Mays) 03:37
(Rochester, Michigan, July 14, 1982)

These two favorites from 1979’s American Garage album were used as the encores (or, as the final encores, once “Song For Bilbao,” found on Travels, was introduced) in 1981 and 1982. Again, the Rochester, Michigan show provides the “definitive” performances with which to close this compilation.

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