Following two vastly different solo recordings, guitarist Pat Metheny has once again turned his attention to the quartet format with the release of Unity Band. The guitarist set his sights on a new bassist this time around, enlisting Ben Williams for the record, and rounding out the group with drummer Antonio Sanchez and saxophonist Chris Potter.
Williams, who won the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition in 2009, was introduced to Metheny thanks to bassist Christian McBride. Eventually, the guitarist asked Williams to sub for McBride from time to time, and with each experience, Metheny found himself more and more impressed.
“A few years ago, Christian McBride invited me to an event that he was leading with the jazz students at Juilliard,” the guitarist said. “Ben was featured on a few tunes and I had that rare feeling of hearing someone that has something special to say. I used Ben a few times to sub for Christian with the trio and found him to be a great playing partner and a great person too. He and Antonio had an instantly effortless rapport. Ben has a fearless and open-minded approach to what music can be, which made him perfect for this band. I really enjoy playing with him and he was fun to write for too; his whole vibe suggests something to me. He has more than a little bit of Jaco’s (Pastorius) melodic influence in his playing. Finding guys who can play great melodies has always been hard, and Ben has natural way of using space as well as being able really get around the instrument; a wonderful combination of skills. After winning the Thelonius Monk competition a few years ago he has become more and more in demand. I am very happy to have him in the Unity Band.”
Potter’s participation in the album is quite unusual for a Metheny-led project. The guitarist hasn’t featured a saxophone in the forefront in over 30 years, since the release of 80/81. It was that record that brought Metheny together with two sax greats: Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker.
Metheny says the Unity Band gets its name from “an area where I grew up in Missouri is the home of Unity Village, the world headquarters for the Unity Church. Although I personally am not a member, the connection between the Fillmore family that founded Unity and my family goes back almost 100 years. There was a Unity Band that performed every Sunday evening in the summers when I was growing up. My dad played in it when he was young, my older brother Mike was a featured soloist starting at a very young age, and I even played (French horn!) in the band for a few years.
“This Unity Band was initially organized to do a whole bunch of summer concerts during this upcoming summer (2012), so the idea of playing music in a summer setting and my memories of the original Unity Band summer concerts of my youth made a mental connection somehow, which is what led me to that name. And, I have to admit, somehow, in these times, ‘Unity’ is an especially good word to get out into the world.”
Pat Metheny Unity Band Video Preview:
Preview and download Unity Band:
Pat Metheny Unity Band Track List:
- New Year
- Come and See
- This Belongs to You
- Leaving Town
- Interval Waltz
- Signals (Orchestrion Sketch)
- Then and Now