For much of his quarter-century career, Pat Metheny has been sort of a jazz-world Zelig, taking on the mantle of feedback wrangler as readily as that of New Age noodler. The one role to which he keeps returning — and it suits him well — is that of the laconic post-bopper bent on making mood as much as making music. It was in this guise that Metheny appeared on the first night of this rather unusual stint at a venue normally reserved for more experimental players. And while he chose not to emphasize his experimental efforts, the guitarist did offer a fairly comprehensive overview of his straight-ahead work.
Leading with a pair of songs from his new Warner Bros. disc, “Trio 99-00,” Metheny established a no-nonsense tone early on. Both “Soul Cowboy” and “What Do You Want” remained tethered to their recorded versions, although Metheny winkingly put his foot to the floor for a speed-limit busting solo on the latter.
Much of Metheny’s best work has come in the trio format, and while bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart are no match for the bygone Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins rhythm section, they proved well-suited to the guitarist’s changing moods here. Moving from a languid version of the late-’70s favorite “Sirabhorn” to a brassy, full-bodied “Question and Answer,” the trio played tighter than tight, although Stewart’s solos sometimes took a while to take shape.
Toward the end of the set, Metheny delved deeper into his bag of tricks, pulling out an acoustic guitar for a fine-spun version of Horace Silver’s “Lonely Woman” and an odd double-necked contraption known as a Picasso for the ethereal “Into the Dream.” A little less introspection, however, would have served Metheny well: You can hear mood music in just about any lounge around, but guitarists of his timbre don’t strut their stuff every day.