Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau: Nearness

Good jazz doesn't always have to knock down barriers. Sometimes it's just the sound of two friends catching up.

Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau


Label: Nonesuch
US Release Date: 2016-09-09
UK Release Date: 2016-09-09

In the liner notes for his first collaboration with Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny described how he first heard of the pianist. He was talking with saxophonist Joshua Redman one day and Redman couldn't say enough good things about this young pianist he had just discovered. Metheny claims that later, while driving in his car, he heard Mehldau's piano work on the track "Chill" from Redman's album Moodswing. Too overwhelmed to continue driving, Metheny had to pull over and listen.

As the years rolled along, Brad Mehldau became even more accomplished. He collaborated with Metheny twice, returned to Redman's camp to lend a hand yet again, collaborated with an opera star and an electronic musician, all while managing a prolific career both as a trio leader and as a solo pianist. Though they have collaborated only occasionally through the years, Mehldau and Redman have remained good friends as well as equal peers. Nearness is the result of a 2011 European tour where the two of them performed as a duet each night, and it's hard to describe the effects of the music without getting overly maudlin or poetic. "It's like one of those friendships where you don't see someone for a long stretch, and then you fall right back where you left off," is how Mehldau describes his time with Redman. They're a bit like a faucet: turn it on, and out comes the water—no fuss, no drama.

No, Nearness isn't as boring as a faucet. If you enjoyed the lyricism of the Metheny/Mehldau collaboration, then know that Mehldau is tuned into a similar vein when he's playing alongside a saxophone. Two of the six cuts, "Always August" and "Old West", are Mehldau originals where he truly lets his inner George Winston shine (that's a compliment) in all its metropolitan luster. Redman wrote "Mehlsancholoy Mode", a playful blues number that allows its author to glide effortlessly on long tones. But even when he's playing multiple notes, as he does on Charlie Parker's "Ornithology", Redman remains a remarkably smooth, precise player. For his part, Mehldau can get boppy when the moment calls for it, as on the Thelonious Monk standard "In Walked Bud". Space is left for one ballad, the album's sort-of namesake in Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You". It's also the album's longest track (among a sea of long tracks—six of them in 73 minutes), giving Mehldau plenty of space to stretch in the first two minutes. When Redman enters with the melody, he sounds at first far too respectful, as if he's sorry for interrupting his partner. As "The Nearness of You" rolls along, Redman gains a bit more steam and volume, dipping into lower-register honks one minute and then climbing the top heights of his scale the next.

After such long and varied careers, musicians like Mehldau and Redman don't really need an album like Nearness to help boost their stature or cement their legacy. In fact, you could get away with saying that they don't need to prove anything at all at this point. But jazz is a genre that is often renowned for its maverick ways and its intrepid attitude toward exploration. Every once in a while, it's nice to be reminded that jazz can also celebrate telepathic friendships and the healing of the listener.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.