Pat Metheny returns to "real" jazz once again with his latest trio release Day Trip<!--color--> (2008 Nonsuch Records). Christian McBride on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums join Metheny on this recording from October 2005. While the material on this recording is decidedly more in the style of "real" jazz than the "smooth" jazz style of The Pat Metheny Group it does not have the energy or bite of some of Metheny's other "real" projects. 1980's 80/81 (a highly recommended quintet date), 2000's Trio 99->00 (featuring Larry Grenadier on bass and Bill Stewart on drums) and 2000's Trio Live (also featuring Larry Grenadier on bass and Bill Stewart on drums) all have a stronger sense of group communication and better showcase Metheny's straight jazz chops. On "Day Trip" the songs may have a more traditional jazz structure than on the Pat Metheny Group records but unlike on those earlier "real" jazz releases here the sound of Metheny guitar is closer to his Pat Metheny Group style than to the more straight ahead jazz style he plays on the earlier recordings.
Not that is a bad thing but I find that by staying close to his signature sound Metheny's playing doesn't open up as much as it could. As usual McBride's bass is outstanding, however, I find Sanchez (The Pat Metheny Group's drummer) to be a rather uninteresting drummer and the weak link in the this otherwise fine trio. The compositions, all by Metheny, alternate between a straight jazz sound and the standard Metheny sound played in a straight jazz fashion. By carefully walking such a fine line between "real" jazz playing and his usual Pat Metheny Group sound, Mehteny may well manage to keep both sides of his immense fan base very happy.
As an aside, Metheny has not always managed to keep these two fan groups happy with some of his other forays into the world of "real" jazz. 1985's "Song X", a collaboration with Ornette Coleman, managed to piss off the fans of his "Group" sound while at the same annoying many "real" jazz fans. I had the good fortune of getting to see Metheny and Coleman play the music of Song X at Town Hall in NYC in 1986. The first half of the show I spent sitting way up at the rear of the balcony but after most of the Pat Metheny Group fans left at the intermission, with this puzzled and hurt look on their faces (and the crowd consisted of mostly Pat Metheny Group fans), I then spent the second half of the show sitting in one of the first few rows of the orchestra seats. Needless to say I loved the whole show.