ECM-1-1131 New Chautauqua
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Released on 1979
Find it at GEMM
ECM-1-1131 cover
[high resolution scan]

K RONOMYTH 4.0: THE ARTIST IN OSLOLATION. Pat Metheny’s followup to his Group debut was, surprisingly, a solo album recorded again in Oslo. New Chautauqua continues the guitarist’s exploration of American folk and jazz in a more thoughtful vein, including an icy Oriental soundscape on the harp guitar, “Long-Ago Child/Fallen Star.” There are some people who think magic happens every time Pat Metheny picks up a guitar. I’m not one of those people. The idea of the guitarist in isolation is intriguing, but New Chautauqua is a disappointment after the fine elpee that preceded it. If the whole album had sounded like the second half of “Daybreak,” in which Metheny multitracks bass, acoustic and electric, I’d be telling you he didn’t need any Group at all. But Metheny could probably pick up a guitar at any given moment and deliver something as interesting as “Country Poem” or “Sueno Con Mexico.” The attraction here is for Meth-heads who think every liquid note that drops from his fingers is ambrosia. At the time of its release, Mikal Gilmore arrived at much the same conclusion in Rolling Stone, calling the album an “arty monologue.” Personally, the pedagogical “tonic/harmonic/melodic” discussion is what turns me off to jazz reviews in the first place, especially since the words themselves carry such mixed signals (e.g., harmony, harmonics), but I presume it means something in the secret cant of jazz aficionados. When I review an album it comes down to the practical matter of action: should you buy it, hear it, ignore it. You can tune out for New Chautauqua without missing anything vital in Metheny’s enormous body of work, unless that body represents the foundation (or a cornerstone) of your collection. The minor epiphanies (a word where Mr.Gilmore and I intersect) of tone aside, listeners will make the same discoveries in greater abundance on works like Pat Metheny Group or Offramp.

And earlier in the same lifetime...
I’m in a peculiar cavern at the moment, and it’s not in Oz but Oslo. New Chautauqua is Pat Metheny on his lonesome, multitracked and multifaceted. Being a “new age navelgazer” myself, I found the bubbling sounds of “Long-Ago Child/Fallen Star” mesmerizing (shades of “Sea Songs”) while warmer entries like “New Chautauqua” and “Hermitage” arrive, familiar friends. Playing acoustic and electric guitars, Metheny creates a warm tonal bed of (uggh, excuse me... coughed up a critic’s hairball there) -- makes some pretty music. It’s not a different chapter than his earlier work with the Group, simply a lighter one. Not that there aren’t heavy things afoot in a song like “Sueno Con Mexico,” but when it wants to get light it can get real light because there’s only one source of light. Right? You can tumble in a wooden turbine one minute, then stretch out in a sunbeam and feel the smell of grass creep up your cheeks. You can go from a single cricket’s call to a whole chorus. Or you can listen to the sound of a passing police siren like I just did and remember why we need artificial sunbeams in the first place. Not that New Chautauqua is the best place to escape, but it’s a cozy place if you don’t mind the intimate setting. If I rate this album merely average, pity me my small imagination. Should I gaze to find, not my navel but the lost city of Amphibia, then my mind might frequent New Chautauqua more often. As it is, there are still so many places I haven’t seen or heard.

ECM-1-1131 back cover
ECM-1-1131 back cover


  1. NEW CHAUTAUQUA    5:17
  2. COUNTRY POEM    2:31
  4. HERMITAGE    5:37
  5. SUEÑO CON MEXICO    5:36
  6. DAYBREAK    8:40

    All selections composed by Pat Metheny


PAT METHENY -- electric 6 and 12 string guitars, acoustic guitar, 15 string harp guitar, electric bass
Jan Erik Kongshaug -- engineer
Dieter Rehm -- cover photo + design
Joji Sawa -- photo

US/GER 1979 ECM LP ECM-1-1131  
BRA 1979 Barclay LP 2301131  
US   ECM CD 825 471  
US   ECM CD ECM-1311  
JPN 2008 Universal CD UCCE-9669 SHM-CD remaster


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