STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Metheny Expands Unity Group for New Album and Tour


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It's been nearly four years since guitarist Pat Metheny was last here in St. Louis, performing in May 2010 at the Touhill all alone on a stage full of instruments as part of his Orchestrion project.

Since then, the peripatetic plectrist has toured with several different configurations of musicians, the most recent of which, the Pat Metheny Unity Group, will perform at The Pageant on Sunday, March 9.

Formed in 2012 to facilitate Metheny's collaboration with saxophonist Chris Potter - the first time he's worked with a saxophonist since the 80/81 project more than 30 years ago - the group put out their first record that year and wound up winning the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Now, with Potter, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Antonio Sanchez still on board, and the addition of multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi, Metheny has released a follow-up album, Kin, and is touring in support of it.

The first video up above is a short promotional clip for Kin, which Metheny sees as a significant step forward for the group, saying in several interviews that “if the Unity Band album was like a black and white documentary, Kin was the Imax version of the Metheny experience."

Since the album just came out at the beginning of February and the group is just now taking the music from it out on the road, there seems to be no video of the tour online yet. However, there are numerous clips of their previous tours online, and you can see four of those down below, starting with an updated version of Metheny's “Are You Going With Me?," from his 1982 album Offramp, that was recorded in 2012 at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica in Rome.

Below that, it's “Breakdealer," from a 2013 show in Brasil; a reworking of the title track from Orchestrion, also from the 2012 Rome concert; and a segment from a 2012 concert in Marseille, France.

But what about the new guy? Well, Carmassi's story is sort of a jazz-fusion version of the plot of the 2001 movie Rock Star, as the multi-instrumentlist has called Metheny and Lyle Mays, keyboardist for the original PMG, “most likely my biggest musical influence growing up."

Before connecting with Metheny, Carmassi had become Internet-famous for a series of YouTube videos showing him playing and singing all the parts on cover versions of a number of well-known songs. Not long after that, Metheny told the Vancouver Sun that as he was preparing to record a second album with the Unity Group (then still called the Unity Band), he wanted to avoid repeating himself.

“I realized that to do that, I would have to add another musician, maybe even two," he said. “And right around that time I heard about this guy and one of his main goals in life was to work on one of my projects, and that’s Giulio. He seemed to be exactly what I was looking for — I didn’t need another major player, another soloist. He was a solid musician who could do a bunch of different things.” While Carmassi's contribution to the group's live sound has yet to be documented, you can see him doing “a bunch of different things" in the sixth clip, his one-man band version of Metheny and Mays' “First Circle."

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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