Wooing the crowd with jazz licks

On October 24, the Crest Theatre audience sometimes sounded like it was taking a Brew Bike for a spin instead of chilling at a jazz concert.


That was the sound of pumped up pockets of the crowd as Pat Metheny’s fingers slid into the opening chords of “Third Wind,” a Brazilian-styled burner from 1987’s Still Life (Talking).


There it was again, as Linda May Han Oh took a nimble bass solo later in the night. And those were just a few of the wooooos! heard throughout the impeccably performed two-and-a-half hour set.

Metheny, 64, has traditionally drawn a broader, even more boisterous crowd than the typical set of chin-scratching jazz aficionados. Over the past four decades, he’s merged a fluid, Jim Hall-styled guitar touch with rock, avant-garde music (see: 1994’s Zero Tolerance for Silence) and collaborated with the likes of David Bowie (“This is Not America,” from 1985’s The Falcon and the Snowman soundtrack).

Metheny’s also made the Sacramento area a fairly regular stop since the 1970s, when he appeared at the old UC Davis Coffeehouse around the time of his folksy New Chautauqua album. His 1983 live album Travels includes recordings from a Sacramento Community Center Theater gig, and last appeared in the area for a surprise show of sorts at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center in 2016. This Crest Theatre crowd seemed especially hyped for his return.

The band on Metheny’s current tour is a leaner outfit compared to the grandiosity of Pat Metheny Group lineups in the past. Along with Metheny and bassist Oh, his band functions as a quartet with pianist Gwilym Simcock and drummer Antonio Sanchez.

The group’s conversational kind of interplay allowed Metheny’s masterful playing to shine. Much of the set was geared as a greatest-hits styled affair, including such Pat Metheny Group signatures as “James” and the breezy “So It May Secretly Begin.”

Metheny showed an incredible range of guitar artistry and emotional resonance while rocking his wild, Hulk-ish mane of hair. Whether Metheny was immersed in the dulcet “Farmer’s Trust,” laying into free jazz-styled freak-outs, or blazing through be-bop styled runs in “Question and Answer,” Metheny’s playing sounded as strong and diverse as ever.

By the time the show wrapped up with an almost celebratory take on “Song For Bilbao,” Metheny shredding away on synth-guitar, there was only one thing left to say: Woooooo!