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Jazz doesn’t get better than M&M

Ted Alvarez
Special to the Daily
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Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau first heard guitarist Pat Metheny when he was 13 – and he counts it as one of the formative musical experiences of his life. And when Metheny first heard Mehldau, he had to pull the car over to the side of the road to focus all his attention on the young virtuoso. Now, these two colossi of jazz – one an elder giant of jazz guitar, the other a ferocious piano upstart – have joined forces as Metheny/Mehldau on record and on tour.”(His playing) was incredibly strong and original, and exuded a confidence and point of view that I’d been hungering to hear from a new player,” says Metheny in a personal statement on his website. “I have followed Brad’s career as he has emerged as the major young jazz musician of his generation.”Mehldau’s storied young career includes modern jazz takes on popular groups like Radiohead, but Metheny was always a primal influence on his piano work.

“It was one of five or six life-changing moments for me as a listening musician,” Mehldau says on Metheny’s website. “It hit me so hard emotionally on every level and broke open my whole perception about what was possible in music. I put Pat up there with Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Keith Jarrett: musicians who raised the stakes in terms of the expressive possibility and emotional fulfillment a listener can receive from jazz, as instrumentalists, improvisers, bandleaders and composers.”Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard join Mehldau and Metheny on “Mehldau Metheny” and the brand new “Metheny Mehldau Quartet;” both albums feature compisitions by both artists. Live, the duo have been praised for their remarkable ability to feed off one another without eclipsing each other’s styles; Metheny’s trademark willy-nilly-but-concentrated soloing meshes perfectly with Mehldau’s studious but eclectic sense of melody. Though they’ve only been playing partners for a short while, their music sounds steeped in generations of collaboration.”From the first note of the first take of the first tune we played, we both could just play pretty much full out,” Metheny says on his site. “When it was all done and it was time to listen back to everything to see what we had actually recorded, I was taken aback by what I heard. It seemed like we had always played together.”

Mehldau, for his part, agrees wholeheartedly.”I had hoped that Pat and I would find a simpatico togetherwhen the plans for the record were coming together, but the reality of that happening was still better than I could have imagined,” says Mehldau. “It was a ‘full circle’ kind of moment: Someone’s music had touched and changed me on a profound level, and here I was, years later, making music with that person.””Gratifying events like this do not come along very often, and so for me personally the recording is a particularly special document.”

Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau play at the Vilar Center on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $70, and are available through the Vilar Center Box Office at 845-TIXS (8497) or vilarcenter.org.Arts &Entertainment Writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.


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