Over the course of more than three decades, guitarist Pat Metheny has set himself apart from the jazz mainstream, expanding and blurring boundaries and music styles. Now, for the first time since his 1980 release " 80/81", he's recorded with a band that features tenor saxophone. "Unity Band" introduces a new Metheny ensemble featuring Chris Potter on sax and bass clarinet, longtime collaborator Antonio Sanchez on drums and the up-and-coming Ben Williams on bass. "In many ways my bands were envisioned as an alternative to the more conventional kinds that I had come up playing in," says Metheny. "The fact that it has taken me another 30 years to get to it again is kind of a testament to how busy those 'alternative' ways of thinking have kept me." Metheny wrote a considerable amount of new material with the new group in mind, winnowing the music down to nine tunes.
Pianist Eric Reed has claimed that Thelonious Monk's music makes it possible "to travel way out there, if you're willing to go where it can take you." On his new CD, "The Baddest Monk", Reed and his colleagues prove more than willing. This is not another Monk tribute disc, dragging out the usual suspects for another tired line-up but it is rather a vital, living and insightful re-examination of Monk as seen through the imagination of sympathetic and like-minded artists. Reed and his ensemble are able to penetrate to the very core of Monk's writing, dismantle its component parts and reassemble them so that they contain not only the essence of Monk, but that of the players themselves.