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