Pat Metheny released Orchestrion this past week. If I’ve counted correctly, beginning with Bright Size Life in 1975, this is Pat’s zillionth record.

Not a full minute into the 15:48 opening cut, my jaw was already on the floor. I’d never heard him quite like this. It was identifiably Metheny, but the ensemble setting was just unreal with its incredibly tight unison runs, lightspeed tempos, and complex countermelodies. With due respect, and plenty is due, my first thought was that this jazz icon has been putting the “meth” in Metheny.

Then I watched this video on the making of Orchestrion.

Now my jaw is still on the floor, but I’m also thinking about the creative mind that’s driven to make an album this way. He’s trying something entirely new, which is a rarity in itself. I wonder if Metheny is just tinkering or if he feels that, after 35 years of invention, he’s exhausted the potential of traditional music-making.

I wonder if he’s challenging us to reconsider the very process of making music. What does he hear that makes him opt for robots over humanoid collaborators? Is it a jazz record? A real-world Animusic?

Does it even matter how music is made, so long as there’s a good listening experience?

Still listening right now, and wondering what musicians out there think.

— Rich Maloof

The Punch-In is edited by Rich Maloof, who has a long history with TrueFire as artist, educator, and producer. Rich’s body of work as a published author and Editor in Chief of Guitar magazine has been distributed and translated internationally.

Photo by Jimmy Katz / Courtesy Nonesuch Records