Review Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau
Wigmore Hall, Thursday Ocetober 15th 2009
Jazz musicians adapt. They always make the music work in the context. Brad Mehldau had given a lot of forethought into making music to suit the Wigmore Hall. He talked about this special playing situation: the pared-down (paired-down?) resources of his duo with a musician he admires: Joshua Redman. They were regular collaborators in the 1990’s (as above, Bern, 1994).
The audience which packed the hall was in the mood for bold, iconoclastic, wrong-side-of-the-tracks gestures. It’s the first time, for example, that I’ve ever heard a two-finger whistle in the Wigmore Hall.
It got one such gesture: this was probably the very first time that Nirvana’s anthem for druggy apathy-anarchy “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has echoed round any part of 36 Wigmore Street.
But for me the richer rewards were to be had from the delicacy and subtlety of the dialogue, the fine interplay of two thoughtful musicians (Snob, moi?!!)Mehldau was taking on the mantle of pianists past, making very frequent use of right hand tremolando vamps and repeated left-hand-crossing (cf Schubert Bb sonata -andante). Adapting, cleverly to the vibe of the place, the genius loci.
Joshua Redman, both on soprano and on tenor saxophones always has a gorgeous, balanced and focussed timbre and a strong sense of narrative line. Love it. In the chamber acoustics of the hall his sound just bloomed. Redman carried the legato melody of Brad Mehldau’s slow waltz Don‘t Be Sad with gentle elegance. I then stood, deliberately, behind Row X under the balcony for the encores. There is simply no better place in the world to hear music.
I can never forget what a thoughtful player Redman is, that he’s just been honoured by Harvard. That he also studied at Yale Law School. Redman’s final gestures are a sign-off, an envoi. They are absolutely precise and deliberate. As Blake wrote: “Art […] cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars”
The last three numbers ended as follows:
-a slowly resolving upward-sliding semitone on soprano.
-a single reed-slap on tenor, then used as a motif in the next number
-the final word: a sonorous low B flat resonating the whole instrument and ringing round the hall.