The Coolest Dude In America Is Touring With Pat Metheny Next Year

There are people like me, who buy musical instruments. Then there are people who play musical instruments. Then there are musicians. Then there’s this guy.

The “Slick Stuff” video made the rounds with me and my Facebook friends a year or so ago. It’s one man in his (presumably well-insulated) Brooklyn apartment playing a notoriously difficult Brecker Brothers song. By himself. Yeah, he plays the bass, guitar, and drums; plenty of people do that. He also plays the keyboard; a fair number of people do that as well. But he also plays the wind instruments. And he does all of these things well.

A series of videos like this, as well as a collaboration with singer/actress Emily Rossum, made Giulio “lightweight famous”, so to speak. And now he’s touring with Pat Metheny’s Unity Group, which is basically the Unity Band plus Giulio.

Giulio’s filling the “multi-instrumentalist/vocalist” seat with Metheny, which has been occupied by a variety of outstanding musicians. What? You want me to rate them from worst to best? I thought you’d never ask.

  • Philip Hamilton. He struggled to deliver live and never seemed comfortable during the concerts; I saw him with Metheny twice and was not impressed. Great voice at times, but he didn’t last long.
  • Armando Marcal. Kind of a Pedro Aznar Lite, hired for Imaginary Day. Nothing to complain about, and a strong percussionist, but he didn’t get to participate in any of the iconic PMG material.
  • Gregoire Maret. A brilliant harmonica player, strong guitarist, had a voice that worked very well with “The Way Up” but seemed out of place in the earlier stuff.
  • Pedro Aznar. A bit of a monster on the bass guitar, which he never got to play with the PMG. Maybe the definitive Metheny “voice”, insofar as he’s on Letter From Home.
  • David Blamires and Mark Ledford. Putting them together because they usually performed together. I saw them murder “And Then I Knew” during the “We Live Here” tour, with a stronger performance than this one:

    In Columbus, Metheny let them stretch the a capella ending (seen in this video right after the seven-minute mark) for maybe a minute, and when they were finished Davis spontaneously picked Mark up off the ground hugging him. The death of Mark Ledford has to be one of the great unknown tragedies in jazz music. He was a tremendous horn player as well as a top-notch singer, and he died before his forty-fifth birthday of heart disease. Apparently, Metheny fired him for missing practice before he died; “Led” had been hiding his illness from everyone as best he could.

  • Richard Bona Not anything like as strong a singer as Aznar, Blamires, or Ledford, but he was a participant in my All Time Favorite Pat Metheny Group Moment, which was when he performed “Bright Size Life” during the Washington, DC leg of the “Speaking Of Now” tour in honor of Jaco. This performance doesn’t quite come up to that mark, but it’s worth watching:

    For that alone, Bona is the best, even if his singing voice was alternately reedy and too deep. From what I’ve read, he and Metheny couldn’t get along, and Bona didn’t appreciate having to watch Steve Rodby play bass for most of each gig. Richard, trust me: nobody appreciates that. Someday I’m going to found the Steve Rodby Non-Fan Club. The only reason I haven’t done it yet is because Steve’s reportedly a wonderful, decent human being. I just dislike the way he plays. Whatevs: we have Ben Williams for this tour.

Okay, so that’s my impromptu list. The Pat Metheny Unity Group is coming to a city near you in 2014. Don’t miss it. Go encourage Giulio, at least. Thirty years from now, you’ll want to be able to tell your kids you saw him play.

One Reply to “The Coolest Dude In America Is Touring With Pat Metheny Next Year”

  1. Domestic Hearse

    Giulio’s a sick, sick dude. Deep diving now to find some more of his ridonkulous multi-instrument chops.

    Thanks for the intro, Jack.

    The Bona solo is also fitting in its tribute to Jaco. Spot-on tone. A little more modal and less melodic than Jaco, but technically accomplished and polished.

    I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the Metheny Group should they visit the Chicago area soon.

    Now off to google Rodby and see just how bad the dude is/was. Seeing as Metheny did his trio stuff with Jaco (and I have a couple obscure CDs from that period — really inaccessible stuff to non-hardore jazz fans), I don’t see why Pat would not keep Bona in the bass chair full-time. After Jaco, it’d be difficult to suffer less than stellar talent holding down the groove.


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