Ace guitarist Peter Bernstein and his all-star trio – featuring Doug Weiss on bass and Billy Drummond on drums – were joined by special guest virtuoso pianist Brad Mehldau earlier this month as they explored two sets of jazz standards, contemporary songs and originals before a packed audience at the Falcon in Marlboro.
Great Barrington, MA: Mahaiwe Performing Arts presents two groundbreaking young American musicians, singer/mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau, in a rare performance as a duo on Saturday, April 13 at 8:00pm. Both are virtuosos who boldly mix their respective areas of expertise – bluegrass and jazz – with influences from Radiohead to Bach. Now these kindred spirits combine their dazzling imaginations in an evening of classical transcriptions, pop covers and original songs.
Thile is a mandolinist and composer, Mehldau a lyrical jazz piano voice with the same wide range of musical interests. They join together for a rare evening that could go anywhere in the musical spectrum.
Brad Mehldau sat sideways on the piano bench, facing the now-almost-dry crowd at Ozawa Hall. He’d just bewitched us with a singular reading of Lennon & McCartney’s “Blackbird,” and was recounting the music that had come previously unannounced. “Before that, we had… umm, we had…”
“‘My Favorite Things,'” some of us offered helpfully.
“‘My Favorite Things,'” he repeated quickly, smiling at his own temporary amnesia. It couldn’t be called a “senior moment”: Although only in his forties, Mehldau is considered one of the greatest keyboardists of his generation. The thing is, his solos tend to turn into one long, winding train of colorful, expressive thought, so since he’s the one “driving” the train, it makes sense that he might not remember all the scenery that had gone past his brainpan’s front window.
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.
“The first record album that I ever bought? It was probably something really, well, something really lame.
I do remember the first one that made a real impact on me was Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall.’ I think I bought that when it first came out, and I was about nine years old.
The first artist that really grabbed me was Billy Joel when I was like nine and ten years old, and then I listened to rock & roll for years, in fact only rock & roll until I was 12 or so, when I discovered some things that were kind of fusion-esque that I could really relate to. I got into some of the more heady prog-rock stuff like Yes, Frank Zappa, King Crimson and stuff like that. So the progression to jazz-fusion was kind of natural from there to bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report.
I kind of worked my way backwards into jazz from rock & roll.”
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