Pat Metheny is a complex figure in contemporary jazz. Throughout his extensive recording and touring career of more than three decades, the guitarist has explored a stylistic range as compelling as it is confounding. He seems to pretty much play whatever he wants, from breezy fusion grooves to postbop blowouts, Muzak-lite Brazilian themes to straight-ahead jams, meditative solos to experimental noise, lyrical acoustic soundtracks to amped-up collaborations with avant-garde legend Ornette Coleman. And yet there's a through-line to his body of work melody. As a composer and an improviser, Metheny has long been obsessed with melodic contours that are fundamentally heart-centered and mood-rich. Rarely settling for a simple pretty line, he values the depth that comes from intricate phrasing, elegant harmony, and tonal variation. As heard on his latest album, Day Trip, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, he weaves tasteful melodic threads into vibrant tapestries, at once full of feeling and intelligence, a sophisticated blend that rewards repeated spins. This is why Metheny is arguably the most popular jazz guitarist of his generation no matter what he chooses to play.
Feb. 20-23, 8 & 10 p.m., 2008