August 28, 2023
Twenty four hours after a raucous, spirit raising performance by South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini
and his trio mates, drummer Francisco Mela
and bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere
the evening began quietly like a haiku. Brad Mehldau
thanked his Hudson Valley neighbors, turned, took the bench and let the dimming light of late August shade his summer reflection. The insistent motif of "John Boy" rang out first, a prelude of sorts to the more complex, impressionistic "The Falcon Will Rise Again" (both from 2010's ambitious undertaking Highway Rider
Mehldau had obviously set his sights for the evening on familiar territory, yet willfully dug deeper into each selection, revealing new shadows, shedding new light. There is resolve. There is wonder. There is "Waltz for J.B.," a true highlight of Mehldau's classical/jazz hybrid, first heard on the essential 4-disc set, 10 Years Live Solo
(Nonesuch, 2015). A brief rundown of the songs played and another hushed thank you brings one and all to The Beatles
, where for most in the room, this unbounded love for music began.
"Here, There, and Everywhere." Think about what a master can do with that melody. Then on to the chiming pop of George Harrison
's "If I Needed Someone." Taken here as a meditation, a preamble of sorts to Neil Young's haunted hippie paean from 1970, "Don't Let It Bring You Down."
Locked into a greater essence, Mehldau, the muse, and the audience crossed paths with Radiohead's "IndentiKit." A ragtime take on Bob Dylan
's early epic "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" elicited appreciative bursts of recognition and applause after the choruses. Played with reverence and intrigue for the tune's emotional core, Mehldau closed with the Fab Four again, this time the eternal yearning of their career closing "Golden Slumbers." He returned for one encore, a truthful reading of Paul McCartney
's "Maybe I'm Amazed."
It could have been Carnegie Hall or Town Hall was the general consensus overheard as the audience walked into the humid Ulster County night. That's how big Mehldau's solo act of creativity and clarity was.
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