It’s a curious thing, but just as I was entering the time of sleep lost after the arrival of the new pup, I began listening to the new release on the ECM label from the Tarkovsky Quartet. Not only was the album entitled Nuit blanche (‘sleepless night’ this side of the Channel), it also featured a dog on the cover. Not only that, the quartet, founded some years ago by the French pianist François Couturier and consisting of cellist Anja Lechner, soprano saxophonist Jean-Marc Larché and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier takes its name from the Russian film director whose greatest works include Stalker – which was itself the subject of Zona, a brilliant meandering, meditative book by Geoff Dyer, a bunch of whose books were all that I could focus on in the indolent, zoned-out state in which I found myself. In situations like this you can’t help asking, ‘What’s going on?’ Continue reading “Backtracking: jazz encounters in the room of dreams”
Last night we saw the Brad Mehldau Trio – Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums, and Mehldau piano – perform in the Concert Room of St Georges Hall. An excellent performance, though the venue’s acoustics are not ideally suited for jazz.
From the programme notes:
Virtuosic pianist Brad Mehldau is a major force in contemporary jazz, injecting fresh intensity into the music through a combination of spontaneous improvisation and formal structure. His artistry stands out as a powerful contemporary influence in a line that stretches back through Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. Mehldau’s approach embraces a reflective and musically profound command of melodic improvisation with bursts of full-on rhythmic intensity.
Brad Mehldau has recorded and performed extensively since the early 1990s. His most consistent output over the years has taken place in the trio format. Starting in 1996, his group released a series of five records on Warner Bros entitled The Art of the Trio. Mehldau also has a solo piano recording entitled Elegiac Cycle, and a record called Places that includes both solo piano and trio songs. Elegiac Cycle and Places might be called “concept” albums. They are made up exclusively of original material and have central themes that hover over the compositions. Other Mehldau recordings include Largo, a collaborative effort with the innovative musician and producer Jon Brion, and Anything Goes – a trio outing with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy.
From the programme notes:
Mehldau’s musical personality forms a dichotomy. He is first and foremost an improviser, and greatly cherishes the surprise and wonder that can occur from a spontaneous musical idea that is expressed directly, in real time. But he also has a deep fascination for the formal architecture of music, and it informs everything he plays. In his most inspired playing, the actual structure of his musical thought serves as an expressive device. As he plays, he listens to how ideas unwind, and the order in which they reveal themselves. Each tune has a strongly felt narrative arch, whether it expresses itself in a beginning, an end, or something left intentionally open-ended. The two sides of Mehldau’s personality – the improviser and the formalist – play off each other, and the effect is often something like controlled chaos.