Saturday, January 9, 2016

Brad Mehldau: Brad Mehldau: 10 Years Solo Live (2015)

Brad Mehldau: Brad Mehldau: 10 Years Solo Live
It is surprising that Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett do not draw even more comparisons. Both cross genres with ease, provide consistently high quality content and are unquestionably the finest piano virtuosos in modern music. With the release of Mehldau's 10 Years Solo Live, he solidifies his position as the heir apparent to Jarrett's place atop the solo jazz piano pedistal.

The five hours of live music in this anthology are the result of Mehldau's review and segmentation of some forty European concerts dating back to 2004 performances at the Menton Music Festival in France and London's Wigmore Hall in London through a 2014 concert at Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium. The eight record vinyl or four CD box sets contain thirty-two tracks and only in one case is there two versions of a tune, Radiohead's "Knives Out." Given Mehldau's penchant for repeatedly (but with great variety) performing selective numbers from that band, Nirvana, Nick Drake and Lennon/McCartney, it's a generously diverse collection.

Mehldau himself contributes a relatively modest six compositions in the midst the previously mentioned pop favorites and songs from Jeff Buckley, Kurt Cobain and Roger Waters. Jazz classics from Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and two Johannes Brahms compositions are among the other pieces. About half of these performances are great immersions, extending well beyond the ten-minute mark.

As he long has done, Mehldau mines some unusual sources for unexpected improvisational gems. Paul McCartney's "Junk" with its bluesy New Orleans treatment and the sixteen-plus minute reverential treatment of the Brian Wilson/Tony Asher classic "God Only Knows" are cases in point. A medley of The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (which samples The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time") and The Kinks (Ray Davies) "Waterloo Sunset" is another exceptional performance.

Mehldau's brief renditions of Brahms' "Intermezzo in B-flat major, Op. 76: No.4" and "Intermezzo in E minor, Op. 119" are no less inventive than the jazz and pop improvisations. In fact, Mehldau notes that he intentionally seizes on the fragment of a theme and manipulates it until the piece effectively becomes his own musical development. It is in his uncanny ability to refurbish tried and true compositions that Mehldau dispels any preconceived notions through his slip-sliding melodic translations, often elaborate and always lyrical, even in the stretches.

Mehldau's ambitious amalgamation of modernism, classical influences and rock tempos is a calling card he has been perfecting for years and—despite the non-chronological sequencing— it comes together very nicely on 10 Years Solo Live. The four CD discs are categorized as "Dark/Light," The Concert," Intermezzo/Ruckblick" and "E Minor/E Major" though the segmentation's purpose is less clear than the labels may indicate. Mehldau's treatments are always so acutely individual that they seem fresh even with repeated listening and even over ten years, and that makes this collection well worth owning.

Track Listing: DARK/LIGHT Dream Brother; Blackbird; Jigsaw Falling into Place; Meditation I – Lord Watch Over Me; And I Love Her; My Favorite Things; This Here; THE CONCERT Smells Like Teen Spirit; Waltz for J. B. ; Get Happy; I’m Old Fashioned; Teardrop; Meditation II – Love Meditation; Holland; Knives Out; INTERMEZZO/RÜCKBLICK Lost Chords; Countdown; On the Street Where You Live; Think of One; Zingaro/Paris; John Boy; Intermezzo in B-flat major, Op. 76: No. 4; Junk; Los Angeles II; Monk’s Mood; Knives Out; E MINOR/E MAJOR La Mémoire et la Mer; Hey You; Bittersweet Symphony/Waterloo Sunset; Intermezzo in E minor, Op. 119: No. 2; Interstate Love Song; God Only Knows;

Personnel: Brad Mehldau: piano