Recording information: Jazz In Marciac, Marciac, France (08/02/2006).
Brad Mehldau's latest solo recording, the two-CD/single-DVD Live in Marciac begins with two tracks that contrast his astonishing technical facility and his considerable inventive gift for empathic interpretation. The opening "Storm" is an original four-minute exercise in furious counterpoint, expansive layered harmony, and swinging ostinato; it's followed by a complex yet utterly inventive lyrical reading of Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me" that not only underscores the lyric in its full harmonic voice, but expands upon it with low- and middle-register arpegiattic studies from Bach and Brahms without losing site of the tune. These are but two of the many surprises on this recorded in 2006. Mehldau ranges over his catalog to revisit his own compositions -- including three from his celebrated first solo piano album Elegiac Cycle -- "Resignation," "Trailer Park Ghost," and "Goodbye Storyteller." These new readings offer an aural view of how much more is in those songs as he's investigated them over the years. Among the performances here are healthy examples of Mehldau's love of rock and modern pop music, including Radiohead's "Exit Music (For a Film)," which closes disc one. Disc two kicks off with another contrasting study, this one music from two musicians who died at their own hands: a thoroughly imaginative reading of Nick Drake's "Things Behind the Sun" (that appeared first on the Live in Tokyo album) followed by its mirror image, Kurt Cobain's "Lithium," using the same percussive left-hand patterns with inverted changes and syncopated lyric accents (they appear as a medley on the DVD). Mehldau also delivers a lovely reading of Lennon & McCartney's "Martha My Dear," where he juxtaposes its sweet melody against a slightly angular, dissonant set of changes. The set closes with a deeply moving imaginative "My Favorite Things," followed by a funky, slamming take on Bobby Timmons' "Dat Dere" (which is missing from the DVD for some reason). For Mehldau's fans, this is another opportunity to hear just how creative and versatile he is, even with familiar material. For the uninitiated, this is a grand opportunity to acquaint yourself with one of the most gifted jazz pianists on the scene. ~ Thom Jurek
Down Beat (p.59) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "It's easy to be blown away by his dazzling hand independence and vast scope. But there is a lot more going on here than power for its own sake."
JazzTimes (p.68) - "Mehldau makes 'It's All Right With Me' into a riotous celebration 'Secret Love' is next, a sudden hush of lyrical contemplation."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.107) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "His technical command of the keyboard is utterly awe-inspiring -- so much so that at times, you would swear he's playing with four hands."