Music

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

Nearness

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

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.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image