LIVE: The Brad Mehldau Trio @ The Egg, 4/22/18
Review by Bokonon
Right hand arched, high, like a fiddler’s grip. Left hand flat, like a conga slap. The notes are all there, in sequence, in black and white. Ascending. Logical. Ordained.
It comes down to decisions. Economy. Frugality.
Brad Mehldau looks at the piano like a puzzle, sorting out where the pieces fit. This is a corner, this is a border, this goes in the center. See this red? It matches here.
He is focused on the machine. There is no waste. There is no flash. Each note makes terrible sense. Each is inevitable, yet pulled from the sky. See this red? It matches here.
At The Egg’s Swyer Theatre on Sunday, Mehldau again took the stage in a grey sweater, joined by Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard. All peaks.
The three listen loud. I don’t want to hear musicians think, except when I do. And on Sundays, I do. Grenadier, tugging at Mehldau’s subdued melody, doesn’t struggle. But he does do the math, crunching the chord numbers, vexing the equation. Ballard suggests a beat, but doesn’t say so.
There are too many metaphors, but that’s what happens.
Jon Brion’s “Little Person,” with no fanfare, pretends the evening will be sweet, slightly meditative. It lies. “Spiral,” from the upcoming Seymour Reads the Constitution, loops like Horace Parlan, the tune folding in on itself in incessant origami. And an untitled blues — “A Blues for You,” the composer quips — pits ostinato against ostinato against Ballard’s cymbal chatter.
The band decides.
Ballard’s furious. Sometimes. Cutting high time across Mehldau’s mope, the contrast seething, beautiful.
He solos. Rudiment on rudiment on rudiment. Fundamental. Moses with tablets. Bushes burning.
He’s the fourth floor on a glass and steel tower.
Too many metaphors.
Mehldau, hunched, Gollum-like, over the ivory. He contemplates. He honors Ballard and moves on, a waltz, also untitled, billowing out from under his seat, sending tendrils to the ether.
Cole Porter and Sonny Rollins are considered. “I Concentrate on You.” “Aerigin.”
Mehldau owns the copyright on both. The estates might argue, but there it is. In black and white. Ascending. Logical. Ordained.
A middle-aged ballad, because he can’t contain himself to titles while things are busy being born, is, he says at The Egg, “finally one I can get behind.” Ballard doesn’t even pick up sticks. Bare hands, Brushes. Mehldau finds something in the piano, literally and figuratively, lifting it out from the action and from his core.
Finally, the grand is naked, unfettered and singing on its own as Ballard and Grenadier hush. Mingus steps in as a corner, a border, a center. It fits. It completes a section. That red. It matches. Brings peace.
But people want encores. It’s what they do. So the band does.
“Hey Joe.” It would almost seem a satire. A doodle. Instead it’s a portrait. Cut it up and it’s a puzzle. Mehldau finally reaches to his left. Bass notes rumble a hello. The closing Hendrix flurry is rustled. A decision has been made. Economy breached.
The metaphors fall. The metaphors fail. Jazz.