Pat Metheny, "Orchestrion"

80 Billboard Rating

Well into his fourth decade of jazz stardom, guitarist Pat Metheny has pretty much done it all, from recording in a variety of formats to working with colorful collaborators. Metheny has gone the solo route before, but his latest release, "Orchestrion," puts an entirely innovative spin on it. The main voice of the album's five expansive tracks is Metheny's signature electric guitar, but he also plays the keys and various rhythm instruments. Additionally, the artist utilizes guitar-bots (self-playing guitar robots) and radically employs an array of custom-made acoustic instruments that were invented for his sonic explorations. The most obvious distinction from past releases is the richly textured soundscape of unusual tones that Metheny harmonizes with on with his guitar. As a result, "Orchestrion"-especially on the rollicking title track and the percussion-tinged "Spirit of the Air"-surprises and exhilarates. Plus: Robots!