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REVIEW: Mehldau and Thile in London

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Tuesday September 18, 2012

from JazzWize Magazine

Brad Mehldau In The House Of Elliott Joined By The Miraculous Mandolin Of Chris Thile
By Stephen Graham

A Bach partita for violin played on a mandolin, Elliott Smith’s ‘Tomorrow Tomorrow’ and some almost obligatory Radiohead were all grist to the mill for Brad Mehldau joined by the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile at the Wigmore Hall on Friday. Coming towards the end of Mehldau’s successful run as curator of the hall’s jazz series he and Thile clinked bottles of champagne before playing an encore. Who could deny they deserved a swig?

Thile had earlier opened things up on his own with some bluegrass, a tune called ‘Broadminded’ delivered with a quirky line in duck weaving, snake-like body shaping and hoedown moon walking as he played in extrovert virtuoso fashion. “Mr Mehldau is in the building,” he later told the Wigmore massive assuming them to be there mainly for the Bradster, even thanking them after some uncharacteristically unrestrained applause and weird whooping later for loosening their underwear. “I am an American,” he explained almost deadpan.

Mehldau finally appeared looking a little funereal but writing in the same day’s Guardian he had other things prior to the concert on his mind, interestingly expounding in a professorial article on Stravinsky and his ideas that music can’t really express emotion quoting “For I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood”, adding a gloss that Stravinsky was probably fed up by his repeatedly encountering “reductive, mistaken characterisations of the composer’s creative process.” All very well but Brad can’t control how his music affects people any more than you need a weatherman to tell the way the wind’s blowing. He quickly managed, whether unconsciously or not, and however subjectively to witness, to monster Igor’s idea comprehensively, wreaking havoc in the morbid part of the brain that instinctively beats a path to Mehldau’s Gothic keyboard lair.

Thile quickly found his way there independently, helpfully turning out the lights on the way in and scratching like a cultured hound at the rug of an indulgent Count. It even worked, and Thile almost out Yorked Radiohead’s angst-ridden lead singer with his fine vocal version of ‘Knives Out’ and Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’ was great. ‘Alex’ (a Punch Brothers song) was quite beautiful, but on ‘Tomorrow Tomorrow’ it really got deep.

Read the full article here