Au Lait, by the Pat Metheny Group

Pat Metheny’s melodic compositions and ability to improvise on top of them without ever losing their essence have long been his trademark. Such is this track from the Pat Metheny Group 1982 album Offramp. The well-known track from this album is Are You Going With Me, which has become a favorite in the group’s live performances. But Au Lait is the hidden gem on this excellent album. All the musicians play wonderful parts here.

Offramp front
Offramp, front

This is the first album to feature Pat Metheny’s signature guitar synth, for many the sound that identifies him. Metheny wrote in the sleeve notes for his Selected Works ECM album: “The arrival of the guitar synth (a Roland GR-300, not as commonly misstated, the Synclavier guitar) was like getting a ticket to another musical planet for me. Suddenly I could play things that I had always heard in my head that had eluded me on a conventional guitar. This piece became a kind of vehicle for that axe that continues to fascinate me even now, 20 some years later.”

Pat Metheny Roland GR-300
Pat Metheny with a Roland GR-300

Lyle Mays’ piano plays a rhythmic pulse that makes you feel like floating on water with the waves coming in at a pleasant frequency. Richard Niles, who acted as co-producer on the group’s previous album, American Garage, said this of Mays: ” the musicianship of Lyle Mays is quite breathtaking. A kind of luminescent, understated spirit shines from every note he plays or writes. He has a great lyricism mixed with a wry sense of humor—classy and louche, both slick and surprising. This is a man who could bring hope to a dying planet with a gentle, aptly voiced chord from his long fingers.”


Danny Gottlieb’s march rhythms on the snare, and the cymbal accents. Nana Vasconcelos, who joined the group on this album after collaborating with Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays on As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls, provides the most important ingredient. His contribution to the album is subtle but on Au Lait his voice and soft percussion accompaniment produce the atmospherics that make this tune so unique in Metheny’s catalog.

Pat Metheny Recording Session
Vasconcelos, Manfred Eicher, Pat Metheny and Jan Erik Kongshaugh, 1981

Treat yourself to a comfortable armchair, make yourself a cup of coffee with hot milk, close your eyes and listen.

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16 replies »

  1. After so many years this composition still “takes” and grab me to a incredible place.
    That human voice in the distance brake by melody of piano and guitar brings me to a magical place.I thank you DEEPLY for giving to all of us that beautiful treasure.

  2. This is the album that got me into jazz, and started my decades long love of Pat Metheny’s music. This track really doesn’t get enough attention. Absolutely wonderful.

  3. I think Au Lait is the most beautiful music ever. The overlay of multiple melodies with tintilating cymbal and snare is something I’ve listened hundreds of times (probably over thousand times) over last 30 years. I first discovered this track (at the time I did not know of any Pat Metheny music) through a Jukebox at some cafe in SF’s clement district on a date. This track never gets old after that many years…

  4. That was an interesting period for Pat–the tunes on “Wichita Falls” are similarly haunting in their own way, and “First Circle” that soon followed grew out of what this album started. I find “Offramp” a bit uneven in places, but side one is pure gold on this record, and ‘Au Lait’ definitely ends the side on a high point. ‘Barcarole’ had to be the most unusual way to start off a jazz record, now that I think of it!

  5. Serenity + Gentleness + Silence…….a masterpiece of all times in my opinion !
    Music that relieves pain from our bodies and caresses our minds. Au Lait is like a nectar for the soul. Thank You Pat for beeing with Us……

  6. This Album ” Introduced” Myself and Several of My Life long Freinds to ” Jazz” and Especially to Pat Metheny So Long Ago! I Still Remind them of This Incredible Album!!! In a time when most of my Freinds were into ” New Wave” I Gladly jumped in With Both Ears and Never Looked Back!!!!! 🎶🎶🎶🎶🎵🎵🎵🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻

    • Interesting, as I had a few friends at that time who were into the alternative side of British music, so I listened to Metheny and The Durutti Column side by side – it works. I ended up writing about both on this blog. You can also find another article here on Metheny, his album 80/81.

  7. Metheny and Mays could write such fantastic, visionary music that just soars. My favorite ritual to relax after a gig is to have a craft beer or three, a fine cigar, and Au Lait on repeat in my man cave. May you rest in peace, Lyle, your otherworldly music lives on in our hearts.

  8. You are correct that the synth sound featured on this album is generated by the old Roland GR 300, that classic Metheny sound. However the guitar you have pictured above is actually a Roland GR guitar with a Synclavier system built in.

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