Live In Marciac CD+DVD, Box set
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Live In Marciac, a two-CD/one DVD set, is pianist and composer Brad Mehldau’s second collection of live solo recordings, joining Live In Toyko in his Nonesuch catalogue. This engrossing set, from a summer festival in Marciac, France, features both Mehldau originals and his ruminative explorations of material from such artists and writers as Nick Drake, Radiohead, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and Kurt Cobain, along with American Songbook classics from Cole Porter (‘It’s All Right With Me’) and Rogers and Hammerstein (‘My Favorite Thing’).
The accompanying film offers a beautifully rendered, piano’s-eye view of Mehldau from this French performance, an extraordinarily up-close opportunity to observes his hands – and mind – at work. As London’s Daily Telegraph has noted, ‘He’s a pianist who has it all, technically speaking, and he also has a fabulously well-stocked brain that can mingle different musical traditions. He can turn a standard with consummate musicianship and real swing, he can mine the depths of a blues chord sequence, he can summon a rock-anthem ecstasy. And lurking in the background is a fascination with classical music, revealed in the way inner parts surge and pluck at the main melody.’
The release of this live set caps a remarkable year for the pianist, who just celebrated his 40th birthday in August. Mehldau was awarded the prestigious Richard and Barbara Debs Composers Chair at Carnegie Hall for the current season, in recognition of his “sensuous, cerebral, and incandescent” work. Through spring 2011, he is serving as an artist in residence at Carnegie Hall, programming concerts – including the recent live premiere of his latest original work, Highway Rider – and conducting master classes, as well as collaborating with other artists, such as mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, with whom he will perform an expanded version of his Love Songs. This honour marks the first time the chair has been given to a jazz artist and, as New York magazine put it, ‘Not just any cat – a pianist with broad influences and a cerebral style.’ In London Mehldau continues his Wigmore Hall curatorship in 2011 with performances in September and December.
Highway Rider, released on Nonesuch in March, has been universally acclaimed. Naming it one of the best jazz releases of 2010, Jazzwise declared, ‘Mehldau is once again breaking new ground.’ The Guardian concurred: ‘Highway Rider's contrasts and dramatic entries spring constant surprises, and show how much progress the mesmerising improviser has made as a big-ensemble composer. This is the kind of genre dialogue that gets classical/jazz crossovers a good name.’
As a jazz pianist, Brad Mehldau has always been at his best in two formats: the classic piano-bass-drums trio and as a solo player. Later in 2011, Nonesuch plans to re-issue his great The Art of the Trio recordings as a six-disc box set. Meanwhile, on Live in Marciac, Mehldau is heard playing alone before an enthusiastic audience at the August 2006 Marciac Jazz festival – his first solo release since 2004’s Live in Tokyo.
Live in Marciac consists of two CDs plus a DVD, altogether over 100 minutes of music. Remarkably, across its length the virtuosity and excitement levels never dip. After repeated hearings, the music sounds as fresh as ever. Typically for Mehldau, the repertoire is a mix of original compositions and an eclectic selection of songs.
Alongside standards by Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein are songs by Mehldau favourites Radiohead, Nick Drake and The Beatles. More surprising is the inclusion of James Shelton’s Lilac Wine – popularised by Jeff Buckley – and Nirvana’s Lithium. Although classically trained, Mehldau clearly listens widely, and is a magpie for a catchy melody.
Despite such diversity, the album has an overall sense of unity. Without going to excessive lengths, Mehldau explores each piece forensically, teasingly playing around with its melody and occasionally investigating side alleys. As is his habit, he revisits pieces he has explored before; for instance, this is his third version of Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film). Mehldau is constantly playing, never still, with both hands ranging across the entire keyboard. His music is so rich that at times it is possible to believe two players are at work.
The DVD is the first ever of Mehldau in concert; he is seen performing all but one of the album tracks. Being able to watch Mehldau’s hands, fingers, facial expressions, concentration, effort and sweat enhances the listening experience, providing an intimacy even denied to audience members. The DVD also offers the opportunity to see a scrolling transcription of Resignation while Mehldau plays it, making it the cherry on the top of an already excellent album.
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Top Customer Reviews
The DVD is a nice plus and its image quality is fairly good. Frankly there in not much going on, just Brad sitting and playing the piano, close-ups are conventional and you won't discover much about the way he moves his fingers along the piano keyboard. The DVD audio is only 2.0 Dolby Digital (two-channel stereo) and I found it of inferior quality as compared to the stereo tracks on the two CDs. I would consider the DVD just a bonus, but I won't recommend buying this Live in Marciac just for the video. Listen and enjoy the two CDs instead!
Consider the track here called "Exit Music (For A Film)". This is not the straight arrangement of the Radiohead track from Mehldau's previous trio recordings; instead, he introduces the theme from the Radiohead song over a ostinato that makes it seem almost an afterthought. The earlier versions are fairly polite: this one is muscular and uncompromising.
For much of the first half of this concert Mehldau focuses on his own originals, and his approach tends towards austere shows of jazz counterpoint that are technically astounding. Moments of lyrical calm flash by in a few bars during such pieces. Mehldau gives notice that he is here to dazzle & overpower the listener, not necessarily to befriend him (or her).
In the second half, there are some very interesting standard performances. "Behind the Sun" gets a more aggressive and rhythmic reading that takes it further from the original. Nirvana's "Lithium" is played upbeat but with angular dissonances that suggest mania rather than depression. "Lilac Wine" (perhaps now best known in Jeff Buckley's version) is stripped of unnecessary drama and converted eventually into a blues number.
The Beatles' "Martha My Dear" (in a version very close to the one on the Day Is Done album) is almost Baroque in its counterpoint ...Read more ›
Those familiar with the work of Mehldau will need no recommendation from me. However,what the title does not reveal is that this is a SOLO album and in my opinion Mehldau isat his best in this setting He is also before a live audience which seems to inspire him.My previous Mehldau favourite was 2003's Live in Tokyo which was also a solo effort.Although Brad Mehldau is a fine composer and there are several excellent examples here such as "Unrequited',I think he is at his best when he interprets other composers songs.There are the predictable standards such as Cole Porters 'It's Alright With Me' and Jazz Standards such as Bobby Timmon's 'Dat Dere' but what I am most impressed with are his interpretatons of less predictable items.He is an exquisite player of Nick Drake's songs and like the Tokyo session this contains a superb [and suptly different]treatment of "Things Behind The Sun' This makes you realise hat a great songwriter Drake was. What Mehldau seems to be able to do is to bring out the essence of a song rather than try to impress with how clever his technique is.He achieves the same with such diverse as Kurt Cobain;s 'Lithium' and Radioheads 'Exit Music' Even more impressive is the way in which he breaths new life into such wee worn pieces as My Favourite Things and 'My Secret Love'..a thing of delicate exquisite beauty.
The accompanying Dvd covers some of the concert and a transcription of 'Resignation' Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I might be a Brad Mehldau addict but I can't find a more adventourus and skilled pianoplayer of today. In his own right he beats everything on the scene. Read morePublished on 24 Jun. 2011 by Rolf L
This is a pretty late release of a live Mehldau solo outing in France in 2006. But what a concert! His brilliance as an improviser is breathtaking, especially when you see him at... Read morePublished on 28 April 2011 by J. Lamede
Sorry Brad but your music realy needs 'The Trio' I found the music 'Pounding and not the subtle tuneful feel that you usualy exhibitPublished on 13 April 2011 by D. M. Lambert