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.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.