Metheny has new band, new music for Egg

Pat Metheny will perform at The Egg on Wednesday
Alejandro Escovedo and his band perform at Club Helsinki last week.
Alejandro Escovedo and his band perform at Club Helsinki last week.

Asked why he doesn’t play here more often, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, who lives in the Catskills, told me he makes new music before returning to a place. On Wednesday, he’ll bring both new (and older) music and a new band to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany).

His quartet co-stars drummer Antonio Sanchez, who played with Metheny in both his trio with bassist Christian McBride at Troy Music Hall in 2007 and the Unity Band at Proctors in 2014; Sanchez also won praise for his score to the Oscar-winning (Best Picture) film “Birdman.”

Metheny first heard Sanchez playing a ballad with pianist Danilo Perez, his teacher at the New England Conservatory. “It was so soft and so burning,” Metheny said, “the first guy since Billy Higgins who played that soft and with that much fire.” In a busier tune later that night Metheny recalled Sanchez, “sounded like there were 16 people up on stage playing percussion, but it was still just that one guy.”

Metheny’s new band also features Malaysian-born, Australian-raised bassist Linda Oh, who has three albums of her own, and British jazz and classical pianist Gwilym Simcock. 7:30 p.m. $40, $35. 473-1845

Alejandro Escovedo all but leveled Club Helsinki last Friday, fronting most of the band that made “Burn Something Beautiful” his hardest-rocking album in years. They detonated most of “Burn” and few older standouts, notably a combustible “Castanets,” a fervent “Sensitive Boys” and the pledge “Always a Friend,” the latter two honoring old pals.

Escovedo turned 66 this Tuesday, and he honored vanishing heroes: David Bowie in “All the Young Dudes” and his own driving new Mott the Hoople-like “Beauty of Your Smile,” New York Doll Johnny Thunders in the gritty, indomitable new “Johnny Volume” and both Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed in the older Manhattan ode “Down in the Bowery.”

A round mound of wild sound, hair and riffs flying, guitar monster Kurt Bloch crowed, “All bets are off!” early in the set after taking his first bold leap — of many! — way over the top. If Escovedo’s songs weren’t so sturdily built — his new songs just as strong as his classics — and the rest of the band less powerful, Bloch’s exuberant, grandstanding energy would have pulled the show out of shape. Escovedo marveled, “I’ve never heard guitar playing like that!” after Bloch made mighty noise, pummeling his Gibson with fists and foot.

Escovedo’s quietest moments were duo encores with keyboardist Josh Kantor, who plays organ for the Red Sox at Fenway. Kantor’s soft accordion gave the thoughtful “Luna De Miel” and “Horizontal” a calm beauty; he said playing with Escovedo was the thrill of a lifetime and he played that way. Bloch wailed with the fierceness of a sideman who may never play such a cool gig again.

Bassist Scott McCaughey and guitarist Peter Buck laid down impeccable riffs with the calm assurance of the arena rock stars both were in R.E.M. Drummer Linda Pitmon, a petite woman with forearms like Popeye, matched them for steady, deep-in-the-pocket perfection.

Without Escovedo, the same crew opened as the Minus 5, celebrating rock ‘n’ roll in “Blue Rickenbacker Guitar” and actor “Robert Ryan,” among rollicking uptempo tunes. But McCaughey also turned deadly serious, decrying violence in “Put Your Guns Away.” They rocked well, hard or sweet, in their own tunes — but played way better behind Escovedo. The place was packed to the walls, candles on the tables dancing to the irresistible beat.

Guitar wizard Johhny A. — now with the Yardbirds, formerly with Peter Wolf — headlines his own show tonight at the Upper Room (59 N. Pearl St., Albany — formerly Jillian’s). Great tone, ingenious tunes, totally effortless fluency and phrasing like a singer; the Boston-based instrumentalist brings the whole package. Local blues-rock faves the Holly & Evan Band open. 7 p.m. $15 and up. 694-3100

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment

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