173

Brad Mehldau at the London Jazz Festival

By

Sign in to view read count
Brad Mehldau/Brad Mehldau Trio
Wigmore Hall
London, UK
November 17-18, 2004

Wigmore Hall, London's home from home to the classical chamber music elite, became a curious uptown outpost of the Jazz Festival this week, as Brad Mehldau packed it out on two successive evenings: a solo recital and a gig with his regular trio, featuring Larry Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossy on drums. Booking the classically-inclined pianist was a shrewd move, both for Wigmore Hall's dynamic Artistic Director Paul Kildea, who saw an opportunity to soften the Hall's rather stuffy image, and for the Festival, which got the best acoustic in London to present Mehldau. His Festival Hall gig in 2002 suffered greatly from a mediocre PA, and the opportunity to hear this remarkable musician in such an intimate space was irresistible to his many fans.
The perfumed hush of the concert hall can prove anathema to jazz, which thrives on the feedback of its audience; happily, this proved not to be the case in this instance. As Mehldau began to play under the famous art nouveau cupola, a mixed crowd listened in silence that was respectful rather than sterile. What the absence of amplification revealed was Mehldau's precise voicing and richly varied tone at the keyboard; he is a pianist of near-unstoppable technique, married to a restless and probing improvisational style. He has developed an unmistakeably individual approach to a repertoire of standards and pop songs; this was exemplified by the opening number, Paul McCartney's 'Junk', in which the simple melody line mutated into a contrapuntal tangle, separate lines converging and diverging in a way that seemed entirely organic. His improvisation on two Monk numbers was almost cubist in its exploration of musical space and density, contrasting spare, massive chords with fiercely virtuosic figuration; conversely, 'On The Street Where You Live' was low-key and lovely. Only Radiohead's 'Paranoid Android' seemed dull; to my ear the song is too prescriptive to allow much in the way of invention, and I'd rather hear the original in all its overwrought emotion.
The following night, Mehldau pruned back the keyboard pyrotechnics, and merged seamlessly into his trio. The group has been playing together for eight years and almost as many albums, and enjoys the effortless communication that results. Larry Grenadier's driving bass provided the hook for Mehldau's spare piano, with Jorge Rossy's fluid, instinctive drumming a sparky counterpoint. Once again, the approach was at once analytical and intensely expressive; 'All The Things You Are' coalesced from an archipelago of seemingly random two-note motifs, a forensic examination of the material that yields surprisingly moving results. 'More Than You Know' was in a bluesier vein, and 'She's Leaving Home' beautifully lilting.
In his introduction, Mehldau described the experience of playing without amplification as 'a rare pleasure', and this pleasure was conveyed to the audience in every lingering chord and resonant pizzicato, as well as two extended encores; I missed my train home, but it was worth it.

Photo Credit
Jos L. Knaepen


Shop

More Articles

Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read Kronos Festival 2017 Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground Live Reviews The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Vossa Jazz 2016" Live Reviews Vossa Jazz 2016
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 1, 2016
Read "LiV Warfield At the Iridium" Live Reviews LiV Warfield At the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: February 28, 2016
Read "Sarajevo Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Sarajevo Jazz Festival 2016
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: November 18, 2016
Read "String Theory 2016" Live Reviews String Theory 2016
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 30, 2016
Read "Bray Jazz 2016" Live Reviews Bray Jazz 2016
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!