Pat Metheny - guitars, guitar synths; Lyle Mays - piano, synthesizers; Steve Rodby - bass; Danny Gottlieb - drums; Nana Vasconcelos- percussion, vocals
The Pat Metheny Group, which has always been a collaborative between the popular jazz guitarist and his keyboard player, Lyle Mays, enjoyed its most widespread commercial success during their early period, when this live recording was made in 1982. The group was firmly at the #1 spot on the jazz charts with Offramp, its third release on the German-based ECM Records. The record ended up being so popular that it even crossed over on to the Top 50 pop chart, and won Metheny his second Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Recording.
His previous LP, American Garage, released in 1980, would firmly establish Metheny as a jazz crossover superstar, and allow him the popularity to elevate the group from traditional jazz clubs to small theaters and performing arts centers. Offramp climbed to an even wider mainstream appeal, clearly evident on this superb live recording. Sonically, the presentation is near flawless, with a crisp and well mixed distribution of the entire band. Since vocals are a rarity at Metheny shows, the engineer was able to focus on the musicianship that was continually blasting off to newer and more stratospheric heights.
Many of the best loved Metheny gems are here, and this show was the basis of a double live album (Travels), which was cut from his dates played this '82 tour and released the following year. Travels would also reach #1 on the jazz charts, but fail to make the same impact as the previous LPs on the crossover effect to the pop and adult charts.
The recording opens with "Phase Dance," one of the earliest of the Metheny / May songwriting collaborations. They next do a spectacular remake of Ornette Coleman's "Broadway Blues," before slowing down for "James," which Metheny says was written for and dedicated to singer/songwriter James Taylor. Most of the show is an on-going exercise in showcasing the magnificent players in the Metheny band. "Offramp," "Are You Going With Me?," "The Bat," and the various improvisational guitar, keyboard, and bass solos might get tedious if you're not a Metheny or jazz fan, but if you happen to be either one of those, they will be a welcomed part of the listening experience. The band closes with two great up-tempo Metheny classics: "(Cross The) Heartland," and the aforementioned, "American Garage."