Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau a breathtaking duo

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Tuesday October 25, 2016

From The Age

Melbourne Festival review: Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau a breathtaking duo
By: Jessica Nicholas

It’s been 25 years since Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau’‘ first crossed musical paths. Since then, those paths have diverged and converged many times, leading both artists on to glittering individual careers. And while opportunities for the pair to reunite are relatively rare these days, the simpatico they’ve developed remains locked in their musical DNA, so that when they do come together ‘” as they did for this year’s Melbourne Festival ‘” the results are breathtaking.

They opened their duo encounter with a handful of originals (one each by Mehldau and Redman) that often felt more like conversations than compositions. The entire concert unfolded as a series of communicative exchanges, where melody, harmony and rhythm became vehicles for spontaneous creative thought. On Ornithology, Redman’s tenor spiralled in staccato bursts across the theme as Mehldau danced around him in agile counterpoint. During My Ideal, the pair gently teased variations from the melody without muddying its romantic glow, even as Redman prodded the tone of his tenor to add tiny flecks of grit ‘” flecks that deepened into an earthy swagger on the night’s irresistible closer, Hey Joe.

At the piano, Mehldau’s ideas unfurled so swiftly and naturally that it was like watching clouds in time-lapse photography. The beauty and unpredictability of that constant motion were even more evident in Mehldau’s solo concert the following night, where the clouds would thicken into fierce storms ‘” full of vigorous chopping and ecstatic drama ‘” then dissipate into pools of light and lyricism. The pianist’s astonishing facility in both hands allowed him to effortlessly transpose motifs from right hand to left, or pinpoint a clear harmonic or rhythmic direction in even the densest passages, transforming pop songs and jazz standards into semi-classical rhapsodies.

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