Trumpeter, flugelhornist, electronic valve instrument (EVI) performer and composer Mike Metheny may be Pat’s brother, but he doesn’t take a backseat to his better known guitarist sibling. Mike’s work as a teacher and performer has been well chronicled and includes time in the US Army Field Band and teaching at the Berklee College of Music. These days he is a freelance performer, educator and journalist in the Kansas City area. 60.1 is Mike’s ninth release as a leader.
To say this recording is an eclectic mix is like saying partisanship in Congress is out of hand; in both cases it’s a no-brainer. There are so many different styles mixed on this recording one wonders what Metheny was thinking as he started to assemble this collection. The recording opens up with a well-known melody reinterpreted through the use of studio and EVI manipulations into a marching band-styled arrangement. Pat did something similar to this to open his First Circle recording; maybe there’s a family "in" story/joke that goes along with this.
The Mike Metheny most are used to hearing comes forward on pianist Bill Evans’ ballad "Laurie." Metheny may have the darkest flugelhorn tone since Thad Jones, and he spreads it around in a lovingly thick manner throughout the track. His improvised solo is a first-rate example of how forward-thinking a solo can go and still stay tonal. Giving ample solo space to pianist Roger Wilder is another no-brainer when you hear his delightfully transcendent solo. Metheny only works with the best, and Smith is just one of many excellent musicians on this recording.
The title track, "60.1," is a fusion romp employing wonderful use of the EVI, and again, like the first track, a bit of a departure for Mike. "Blue Smoke," originally composed for a short dance film, features more EVI work. Coming across like a lyricon/soprano saxophone mix, Metheny has composed a beautiful melody that, for him, is just par for the course. There are few composers who have fashioned as many wonderfully lovely melodies in their lifetime as Metheny, and this ranks right up there with his best. Mixing string sounds, at the end, into the equation takes the chart to new highs. Metheny’s tribute to trumpeter Jon Hassell, "Hassle Free," lets those unfamiliar with Metheny’s abilities see just how insightful and understanding he is of other’s music.
If Metheny were younger you might consider this to be a demo-styled CD, showing off a number of the trumpeter’s cerebral abilities. Coming at this point in this musician’s still evolving career just lays claim to all of the brilliance and intellect he’s been known to possess for many many years. No matter how you interpret the disc, however, one thing is certain, Metheny is a frickin’ monster musician who has deserved wider recognition for so long it doesn’t even bear repeating, of course, it was just repeated.