ECM 1097 Watercolors
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Released on April? 1977
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
ECM 1097 cover  

E CM’s grooming of their young guitar prodigy continued with Watercolors, a collection of songs whose common theme is the water (no surprise there). Though recorded in Oslo, Norway in February, the music largely retains the American warmth and congeniality Metheny is known for. Because water is a widely mutable form (ah, the Wonder Twins taught us something after all), Watercolors literally runs hot and cold. One moment, the listener is splashing in a warm bath of sound (“Watercolors”), only to emerge into a world of ice crystals (“Icefire”). The colder works often feature Metheny alone or with accompaniment from pianist Lyle Mays. The pairing here marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship (the one has literally become synonymous with the other), and hearing the chemistry that occurs on “Sea Song” illuminates the musical sympathy they have for one another. The remainder of the group consists of bassist Eberhard Weber (who, like Jaco Pastorius, proved a temporary hire) and drummer Dan Gottlieb (who remained with Metheny into the ‘80s). They’re usually brought in to flesh out the smooth jazz melodies ever-ready to Metheny, creating life-affirming music that’s both technically accomplished and yet lyrical. The technical component of Metheny’s playing is worth talking about: he alternates between liquid guitar lines that cross over into pop (“River Quay”), complex multistring clusters of notes (“Oasis”) and 6/12-string shooting of remarkable fluidity (“The Florida Greeting Song”). And yet, with all that to recommend it, Watercolors isn’t the most flattering portrait of Metheny’s talents. As one of a new generation of jazz heroes, his legacy would be written in the ways he changed the medium, incorporated new elements into an aging art form. Though enjoyable as an album of music, Metheny is still finding his voice on Watercolors (he’d only just turned 21), and his focus at this stage is on songwriting, technique and execution. He (or any artist) would need to completely assimilate jazz before transforming it into something unique and different. Here, the new discoveries are old discoveries; riding on the gently rolling seas of Coltrane (“Sea Song,” which shares a source of inspiration with Harold Budd’s first album), skimming along the surface as a Jim Hall might. It’s still a fine record, likely to awake the mind’s eye at various moments, but greater treasures lay further up the shore.

ECM 1097 back cover
ECM 1097 back cover


  1. WATERCOLORS    6:28
  2. ICEFIRE    6:07
  3. OASIS    4:02
  4. LAKES    4:43
  5. RIVER QUAY    4:56
  6. SUITE:
      Florida Greeting Song    2:30
      Legend of the Fountain    2:28
  7. SEA SONG    10:16

    All selections composed by Pat Metheny


PAT METHENY -- guitar, 12-string guitar, 15-string harpguitar
LYLE MAYS -- piano
Jan Erik Kongshaug -- engineer
Lajos Keresztes -- cover photograph
Dieter Bonhorst -- layout

US/GER April? 1977 ECM LP 1097  
US February 29, 2000 ECM CD 827 409 digital remaster
JPN September 23, 2002 ECM CD   digital remaster



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