Ever since the mid ‘70s, Pat Metheny has awed the music world with his jazz guitar and the many ways he has improvised with it. Although most jazz bands focus on elements such as piano, brass, or reed instruments, Metheny makes the guitar the focal point and does so with brilliance. Brad Mehldau is a legend being made right now. Ever since coming to the forefront in 1996 with his trio, Mehldau has been one of the most ingenious, piano improvisers. Here on Metheny Mehldau, two innovative musicians come together to create an album with zeal, soul, and spirit that will mellow you out as well as get you moving.
As I sit here and write, I'm listing to "Ring of Life", the fourth track off this new release. Jeff Ballard plays the drums on this and immediately sets the rhythm. Mehldau jumps in with some soft keyboard work, underlining the quick tempo the bass and drums are jamming at. Metheny trips in with his chord work and the track starts to jump. It builds, and then another quick drum solo with shots of Metheny’s chords shooting off like bottle rockets. All the while, Larry Grenadier's bass is thumpin' and bumpin', keeping the tempo. Mehldau jets back in with keys flying, and although he is a premier improvisational piano player, he knows structure like the back of his hand, so nothing sounds out of place. Then, Metheny jumps in with the guitar synth, and babies, you feel like you just blasted off into the outer reaches of the universe.
Other tracks, such as the opener, "Unrequited", have a delicate touch. Starting out with Metheny gently strumming and plucking the strings, Mehldau tickles the piano with the slightest of touch. As the tune rolls along, the tenderness gradually builds as they play off each other, and then ends with the same smoothness it started with. This track, like the rest of the disk, shows how capably these artists play together, rather how they can play off each other as pleasingly.
"Ahmid-6" is another duet that finds them winding their way as they battle it out. Yet, there is no fight here, rather a very structured improvisation as if the two sounds are at odds, but they're not. The blend of the notes between both instruments brings about a rhythm that strolls along and catches the listener by surprise with its traditional jazz jumble. The sound is sweet and melodic, like on "Summer Day" where they combine the traditional feel of unorganized chaos into a mellow mix where Metheny plucks and strums as Mehldau walks his fingers up and down the ivory road.
Metheny Mehldau is a beautiful break from the normal jazz that is out there. Like a great play in football or a sick tube ride at Pipe, this disk by these two stellar performers contains passion and excitement. If you have never heard of either of these guys, then this CD would be a great start. Mehldau composed tracks one, five, and nine, while Metheny composed the other seven. All ten tracks here have soft sounds that build and plummet, vault and dance around as it pushes the envelope of what modern jazz is today. When the CD is over, it leaves you wanting more. There isn't a track that I didn't like, and as we all know, that's hard to find these days. I sure hope that they do it again real soon.
Written by Fumo Verde