Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Having played together on tour since 2003, guitarist Pat Metheny’s new trio had performed live songs from his latest album, “Day Trip,” before they even sat down to record it — in one or two takes per song — in just one day in October 2005. Taking over two years to finally release his first trio album since 2000, the self-produced “Day Trip” features, in a first for Metheny, all original compositions. The result is an album of polished spontaneity.
Frequent Metheny drummer Antonio Sanchez is superb, keeping the already tight compositions neatly sewn up with just the right accents and crescendos while blending into the background, as on “Let’s Move.” Bassist Christian McBride is a revelation, accompanying Metheny’s myriad guitar sounds with a grounded tone that resonates with every pluck, best heard on “At Last You’re Here.” A standout moment occurs in his solo on the ballad “Is This America?” when he puts bow to string and plays a somber theme that he deftly resolves into a brighter one.
Perhaps because of his long-standing, consistent excellence on guitar, Metheny comes across as steady and restrained, allowing his rhythm section to shine. His acoustic guitar solos sound best on “Is This America?” and the lush “Dreaming Trees,” although the electric guitar vamp on “The Red One” somehow feels out of place with the rest of the album, almost like a 1980s rock solo.
Overall, the compositions are well scripted, helping to create a rich, layered sound with only guitar, drums, and bass on one of Metheny’s best albums to date.