Pat Metheny created a monster. Specifically, a robot monster dubbed the Orchestrion, a multi-ton, 30-something piece orchestral autobot, all controlled through Metheny's guitar and pedals. And while the 2010 debut of the beast Orchestrion saw Metheny successfully harnessing its power for a richly melodic set, it seemed disconnected from the awesome means of its creation. The Orchestrion Project ably alleviates this issue, presenting a three-hour documentary and an accompanying two-disc soundtrack that showcases Metheny interacting with his massive machine in real time. The set's combination of material from the original Orchestrion release and older originals ably displays Metheny's ability to adapt a range of material to his mutant player piano. However it's the record's two improvisations, built layer by layer on the spot into massive walls of sound, that best feature the power of this instrument and the imagination of the man controlling it. Some of the same limitations of the first Orchestrion release remain. The chime-y nature of the instruments can turn grating, especially over the Project's 2+ hour runtime. And while the capabilities of Metheny and his machine are impressive, they are still no replacement for a truly great jazz band, and the album lacks the twists and turns that make his full band recordings so exciting. None of this detracts from The Orchestrion Project's overall success. Metheny has managed to take a gimmick and use it for a work of real artistic merit, and for that the album is fully worth your time and curiosity.
★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)