238

Brad Mehldau: Live in Marciac

By

Sign in to view read count
Brad Mehldau: Live in Marciac
In his 2000 book Fargo Rock City (Scribner), Chuck Klosterman explains a phenomenon in heavy metal that involves the critical threshold at which the speed of notes within a solo actually changes the inherent meaning of the sound. To illustrate his point, he describes a passage by ex-Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent that, upon crossing said threshold, "becomes the equivalent of a police whistle." This is an astute observation which extends to jazz as well: There's a point during "Mars," from John Coltrane's Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1967), where the notes descend so rapidly that it feels less like listening to a sax solo and more like being shot with rays from an intergalactic machine gun. It's a narrow window that occurs after individual pitches shed their singular qualities but before they coalesce into legitimate chords, and it's a rare feat that escapes all but the most virtuosic instrumentalists.

Pianist Brad Mehldau is one of these instrumentalists, and rarely has his gift been displayed as centrifugally as it is on Live in Marciac, a double-shot of solo piano recorded at a French festival in 2006. It's a stunning document that somehow manages to satisfy the most basic melodic appetites while still confounding conventional understanding of human capability. Rock critics have long bemoaned the inverse relationship between melody and pyrotechnic showmanship, and indeed, Mehldau's early records (particularly the live installments of the Art of the Trio series) took their share of heat for consummate musical fireworks that at times disregarded the framework necessary for such tangents to function. But this signals one of the largest components of growth in Mehldau's playing—his heightened awareness of a song's melodic core, even (perhaps especially) in moments of dizzying technical prowess.

Comparing Marciac's reading of Cole Porter's "It's Alright With Me" to that which opened 1998's Live At The Village Vanguard; in the earlier recording, Mehldau went back and forth between nimble albeit spastic outbursts—an impressive display of individual ideas seemingly unbound by a shared purpose. But his Marciac performance moves with an agility and mellifluousness elusive to the Vanguard take, gaining a buoyant coherence while sacrificing none of the rhythmic freedom or exploratory dissonance. Most pianists play differently by themselves than they play in groups; Mehldau all but literally transmogrifies his left hand into two other living, breathing band members.

Of course, the Porter-style standard has always been but a third of Mehldau's repertoire, and across Marciac's 100 minutes he packs the rest—the originals and the modern pop tunes—full of the same sensibilities. The flurrying notes erupting in psychedelic unison, the classical lyricism at the heart of all those dreaded Bill Evans comparisons, the moments of technical precision when the piano almost sounds to be playing itself—these are all features whose sum makes Richard Rodgers and Kurt Cobain feel like torchbearers in the same line of tradition. And, in a sense, they are. But who besides Mehldau could make it seem so obvious?

Track Listing

CD1: Storm; It's Alright With Me; Secret Love; Unrequited; Resignation; Trailer Park Ghost; Goodbye Storyteller (for Fred Myrow); Exit Music (for a Film). CD2: Things Behind the Sun; Lithium; Lilac Wine; Martha My Dear; My Favorite Things; Dat Dere. DVD: Storm; It's Alright With Me; Secret Love; Unrequited; Resignation; Trailer Park Ghost; Goodbye Storyteller (for Fred Myrow); Exit Music (for a Film); Things Behind the Sun; Lithium; Lilac Wine; Martha My Dear; My Favorite Things. DVD Special Feature: transcription of "Resignation," viewable separately or onscreen while track running.

Personnel

Brad Mehldau: piano.

Album information

Title: Live In Marciac | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Post a comment about this album

Watch

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Alex Moxon Quartet
Alex Moxon Quartet
Alex Moxon Quartet
Read I Went This Way
I Went This Way
Rachel Musson
Read HH
HH
Lionel Loueke
Read Dominos
Dominos
Chuck Anderson
Read Secrets & Lies
Secrets & Lies
Jakko M. Jakszyk
Read Ceremonie / Musique
Ceremonie / Musique
What Happens In A Year

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.