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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sounds for Sore Ears!, 5 Dec. 2008
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This review is from: Metheny Mehldau (Audio CD)
`Metheny/Mehldau'

`Metheny/Mehldau' makes a massive contribution to the discographies of each of its leaders and would be a welcome addition to the collections of fans of its participants. It is a balanced collection of tunes and would enthral all but the coldest heart.

The solos taken by each musician on Mehldau's `Unrequited' have a purity that suggests through composition rather than improvisation. Mehldau is a delicate player and Metheny's own sensibilities are a matter of record but this meeting of like minds provides the listener with a fresh take on the guitar/piano duet. It is interesting to note the evident influence that Jim Hall has had on Metheny's playing. Hall, never an overly technical player, has always painted minimalistically, rather in the spirit of Bill Evan's famous `Kind Of Blue' essay. Metheny shares the mantle of a player who can achieve a great deal with a little. His use of unison double-stops (playing the same note on two different strings simultaneously) is unique and highly effective in bringing emotion into his playing. But this is not the two-dimensional emotions of a Pink Floyd solo but something considerably deeper.

Metheny's `Ahmid-6' is a classic Metheny construct; the harmonies of the composition take the listener back to the guitarist's time with Gary Burton while the hints of Coltrane's `Giant Steps' recall his `Trio '99' period.

`Summer Day', a title that could apply equally effectively to about half of the Metheny back catalogue, features Metheny on a beautifully recorded acoustic guitar (built by Linda Manzer?). The interplay between the two acoustic instruments is delightfully sympathetic, the timbres blending to create a warmth that envelopes. The sheer musicality of these two men is an example to many other so called musicians who should hang their heads in self-indulgent shame.

`Ring Of Life' adds Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, taking the band sound back to the earliest line up of the Pat Metheny Group although the Metheny tune is more `This Way Up' than `American Garage'. Metheny's guitar sound never ceases to enthral; its timeless universality is probably the main reason for Metheny's longevity. It is always intriguing to note how Metheny can execute complex and sophisticated lines without sounding like he is showboating in the way that some of his contemporaries do.

Mehldau's `Legend' is another tone poem, brooding and solemn, whilst `Find Me In Your Dreams' takes the mood even further into melancholy. Beautifully executed and a credit to the reticence of each musician. Less is definitely more.

`Say The Brothers Name' first appeared on a 1993 Blue Note CD Metheny recorded with John Scofield called `I Can See Your House From Here'. The version recorded for this latest CD is warmer; the presence of Grenadier's double bass in place of Steve Swallow's electric may be a contributing factor, as may Ballard's more conventional drumming. A rhythmically sophisticated tune, its Latin influenced groove, lightly rendered initially but building to a simmering heat, defines the performance and Metheny and Mehldau respond enthusiastically to the raised dynamic.

`Bachelors III', unsurprisingly delivered in waltz-time, has all the hallmarks of a Metheny composition. The guitarist's tunes always have a habit of sounding simpler than they really are and, for those musicians that try, it is not until they attempt to perform them that they become aware of the relative complexity of the structures and harmonies. Despite its twists and turns, Metheny makes light work of the changes and weaves his melodic magic throughout. Mehldau is equally comfortable with the detail having been working on Metheny compositions since he was 13 years old.

`Annie's Bittersweet Cake', the third and final Mehldau composition on this cd, sounds like Mehldau writing in the style of Metheny. The composition is reminiscent of some of the guitarist's recent work with the Pat Metheny Group, particularly the longer form works, and fits well as part of this package. `Make Peace', which closes the CD, features Metheny on baritone guitar (like a conventional guitar but tuned down a fourth), its inherent warmth bringing the CD to a wholly satisfying conclusion.

Top drawer! If you like Metheny, buy it. If you like Mehldau, buy it. If you are not sure about either musician, buy it. If you don't like either musician, why have you been reading this for the last 15 minutes and buy it anyway!
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