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Guitarist Pat Metheny’s latest album, Trio 99->00, has received nearly universal praise, from both the music-buying public and Metheny’s fellow musicians. But I’m puzzled about why such a straight-ahead album has been celebrated with such passion by the likes of fashion-plate tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman and harmolodic innovator Ornette Coleman. Instead of the charming aural postcards found on Metheny’s other recordings, the album features the guitarist strumming an old show tune, compositions by John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, and a batch of originals. Metheny has an undeniably magical and feathery touch, but on Trio, his playing lacks the improvisational guile and harmonic inventiveness that usually prevent his work from sounding like smooth jazz. With drummer Bill Stewart’s undulating rhythms and bassist Larry Grenadier’s sauntering counterpoint supporting him on the classic “Giant Steps,” Metheny sounds more like Jobim than Coltrane. The trio’s take on Shorter’s “Capricorn” is more forceful, but it too floats ethereally, thanks to Stewart’s delicate drumming and Grenadier’s ghostly bass lines. Metheny’s own compositions are typically intricate, with richly embroidered lines snaking all over the harmonic canvas, but still sound a little too breezy. And while Trio contains some magnificent playing, the ultra-cool nature of the performances makes the record too prissy to win over skeptical listeners. Metheny pacifies his legion of fans at 8 and 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, and Thursday, March 9, at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Rear. $40. (202) 337-4141. (John Murph)