This is a dazzling display of his musical mind at work for Metheny fans, old and new. For everyone else, this is a beautiful album of jazz guitar music.

Modern Recordings 538891672

Pat Metheny (guitar)

What is it like to be in the mind of a virtuoso guitarist and composer as they create?

Pat Metheny’s long and illustrious career includes different Pat Metheny Band configurations, duets with his guitar mentor Jim Hall, and even his album Road to the Sun, which is almost pure orchestral jazz. Until now, he has never released anything like his new album Dream Box — entirely devoted to his solo guitar playing.

However, this is not an album of standards or even improvisations per se. Rather, it is a time capsule of recorded and forgotten compositional ideas. To that end, each song on the album is beautiful and offers a snapshot of a musician who is a brilliant composer as much as he is a masterful and unique guitarist.

Playing on his quiet guitar, you can hear Metheny’s mastery of his instrument’s mechanics. Volume and inflection are all at his fingertips. There is no studio processing here, no showing off, just an absolute master of their instrument making it sing.

In his solos, Metheny never strays too far from the melody of a song, and it’s indeed one of the virtues of his guitar playing that he can cover so much melodic territory without ever bending the music around him.

This album deserves quiet attention, and its experience is one of sitting and listening to the guitarist invent in front of you. It’s an intimate experience from its inception. As with all Metheny’s compositions, their melodies and explorations make constant harmonic discoveries without venturing far from their melody.

There is a sameness to the songs on the album, but that’s not a negative point. Rather, it’s a testament to Matheny’s singular guitar voice and compositional approach. And each song evokes the same mix of emotions.

All songs are Metheny originals except for Jule Styne And Sammy Cahn’s I Fall In Love Too Easily, Morning of the Carnival by Antônio Maria/Luiz Bonfá, and Never Was Love by Russ Long.

The Waves Are Not The Ocean and Trust Your Angels are quiet and introspective songs. His glissando notes feed each other in and out of his arpeggiated chords that build the framework for him to state his melody. Both melodies are searching and beautiful.

From The Mountains sounds like Jazz folk music, largely because of the song’s rhythm part. The solo part is apiece with the rest of the album, and his sustained tone is perhaps the biggest reference to Matheny’s most well-known music. This is another achingly beautiful song.

Never Was Love is a recognizable Metheny solo set against his accompaniment with an insistent melody that Metheny transforms into its own without sacrificing the funk and groove of the original.

I Fall In Love Too Easily and Morning of the Carnival build into a straightforward jazz guitar solo over the finger-picked rhythm. From their tentative beginnings, they become forceful and capture the gentle force of Metheny’s breezier approaches.

Bass note counter melodies balance his solos that again flow out of a subtle chord progression on Carnival. Carnival’s cascade of ideas is almost overwhelming.

On P.C. of Belgium and Ole & Gard, chords melt into leads and back and forth until it’s hard to distinguish which is which. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as the notes flow in and out of each other like streams moving downhill at their own leisurely pace.

Ole & Gar is playful, celebratory, and melancholy, all the simultaneous emotions his music brings forth regularly.

Clouds Can’t Change the Sky’s guitar is a bell ringing softly through the air. His melodies immerse in his background chords, and their harmonies are so graceful that it’s difficult to know whether the melody is supporting harmony or harmony is supporting the melody. In the end, that doesn’t matter.

This is simply beautiful music, truly created in the moment. This song shimmers from start to end as its closing, ascending chord sequence transforms the piece from a statement into a question.

Dream Box is a beautiful collection of jazz guitar music that lives and breathes the meaning of improvisation. Matheny played each song only once, recorded them, and forgot about them. Yet, each song still sounds composed and intricately thought out. Dream Box is simultaneously quiet and exciting.

This is a dazzling display of his musical mind at work for Metheny fans, old and new. For everyone else, this is a beautiful album of jazz guitar music.