In the five years since the last Pat Metheny Group (PMG) release, 1997's "Imaginary Day," the band's namesake guitarist has released two trio discs, a film score, a duo project, and an all-star collab

In the five years since the last Pat Metheny Group (PMG) release, 1997's "Imaginary Day," the band's namesake guitarist has released two trio discs, a film score, a duo project, and an all-star collaboration.

He also constructed a new, multi-cultural lineup for PMG, featuring longtime musical partner/pianist Lyle Mays, bass veteran Steve Rodby, vocalist/percussionist Richard Bona, drummer Antonio Sanchez, and trumpeter Cuong Vu. The revamped jazz ensemble releases a new project, "Speaking of Now," Feb. 26 via Warner Bros.

The first new member to join was Mexico City-born Sanchez, a classically trained pianist/jazz drummer. Next was Bona, best known as a jazz bassist, who hails from Cameroon, West Africa, and who put himself forward as a candidate when Metheny queried him about available percussionist/vocalists. The last to join was Vietnamese-born Vu, who Metheny tracked down after he heard him on an Internet jazz radio station.

"The interesting thing is that the band has been around so long that we've got people in the band now who are clearly a generation younger than the rest of us," the 47-year-old Metheny says. "A part of the musical DNA of the new members has been formed from listening to our older records, and their enthusiasm for the history of the band has inspired us to take a look at the long-term picture of what the band has come to mean. When composing material for this project, Lyle and I tried to filter that history through the prism of talent that these guys represent."

"As the world has changed, it becomes less possible to make generalizations about jazz being solely an American art form, a notion that never rang true for me anyway," the guitarist says of his ethnically diverse group. "Musicians are forever building their own musical personas by reflecting their own impressions and values through the lens of what jazz tradition has implied."

Longtime Metheny fans have come to expect each new project to traverse unexpected territory, and "Speaking of Now" is no exception. Taking a detour away from the dense, progressive-rock leanings of "Imaginary Day," the new album revels in warm acoustic textures. Both Bona and Vu contribute wordless vocal melodies, and the addition of Vu marks the first time a trumpet has featured so prominently in the group's dynamic.

Boston-based travel and marketing company Adventures in Rock will present "Meet Metheny" promotions in Chicago, New York, Boston, and London, allowing fans to purchase travel packages that include tickets to a Metheny concert and an opportunity to meet the guitarist. The group has a full slate of appearances lined up over the next few months, beginning Feb. 27 in Northampton, Mass.

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