The last time that I saw saxman Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau play together was a dozen years ago at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Redman and his quartet – bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade (and later Greg Hutchinson), as well as Mehldau – were in town for several weeks of open rehearsals, as well as a performance. And it was mindboggling.
Both musicians have grown considerably in the ensuing years, and their duo performance at Skidmore College’s brand new Zankel Music Center was a testament to the fact that they are both now among the most influential jazz musicians of their generation.
And to watch (and hear) them play in a duo setting in the intimate theater was a wonder to behold. Their concentration level was so high, their playing so telepathic that it was almost as though you could see the gears moving in their brains, as each reacted to what the other was playing.
They didn’t perform with a setlist, so it was intriguing to see the concert develop organically as it played out. Of course, there were selections from Mehldau’s new sprawling, ambitious 2-CD set, “Highway Rider” (the opening “The Falcon Will Fly Again” with Redman on soprano; the pop-ish blues ballad “Don’t Be Sad”). Redman offered some new tunes as well, including a tune dedicated to Mehldau, “Mehlzencholy” (I’m just guessing at the spelling here), which the duo had premiered just the previous night.
They also dug deep into the reliable jazz canon for a couple of tunes – Charlie Parker’s bebop blues, “Cheryl,” taken at a breathless tempo, and a crushingly seductive take on the standard “My Old Flame.”
And they brought their repertoire into the contemporary rock era as well, spinning through an unlikely but epic rendition of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song,” in addition to a deliciously dark, Middle-Eastern-flavored reading of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for their encore.
This was the first concert that I’d attended at Skidmore’s impressive Zankel Music Center, and the sound was excellent. But with a wall of windows behind the stage, it was a bit distracting visually to see the headlights of cars driving down the campus road behind the musicians while they were performing.
You can also read my review for The Times Union.
THE JOSHUA REDMAN-BRAD MEHLDAU DUO SET LIST
The Falcon Will Fly Again (Mehldau)
Note to Self (Redman)
Don’t Be Sad (Mehldau)
Cheryl (Charlie Parker)
Interstate Love Song (Stone Temple Pilots)
Mehlzencholy (sp?) (Redman)
My Old Flame
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)