Just in case anyone thinks the New York music scene has gone off the boil as a melting pot for new music, here was strong evidence to the contrary. Pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman sauntered on stage, whooshed without ceremony into "The Falcon Will Fly Again" and laid down a stunning, searching and brilliant display of just what is possible in the genre of contemporary jazz. These Americans vividly conjured the aura of Jazz Past and Jazz Present.
Redman is the son of late, great sax player and bandleader Dewey Redman, and he showed the same quirky practice of humming, almost singing through his instrument, as his father. Winner of the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991, he showed himself capable of an almost infinite range on both soprano and tenor sax.
Mehldau, a graduate of New York City’s The New School music program and himself the winner of prestigious awards – including the 2006 Miles Davis Prize at the Montreal Jazz festival – has for some years been generally regarded as the next big thing on keyboards in jazz. He didn’t disappoint, displaying both technical prowess and the benefits of an expansive musical education. His avoidance of unnecessarily bravura tricks and ability to convincingly play different melodies with each hand while building complex musical tapestries added to a sense of gravitas.
The 90-minute set included two dazzling interpretations of Sonny Rollins compositions “Sonnymoon for Two” and “Airegin” and a hot interpretation of the Hoagy Carmichael/ Ned Washington standard “The Nearness of You” the title track of the duo’s 2016 album “Nearness”. What might not have been expected was the difference between their thoughtful, sensitive delivery of the song on the album and the almost heartbreaking poignancy of their live delivery. Also presented was a selection of substantial compositions by the musicians themselves, including Redman’s “Note to Self” and “Distance" and Mehldau’s “The Falcon will Fly Again.”
During the concert there was a comfortable sense that the musicians were playing songs they liked, favourite songs they were revisiting and songs they were currently evolving. Perhaps the most impressive aspect apart from the degree of improvisational risk, was the incredible palette of colours, sound effects and nuances within all the pieces. Travelling through numerous jazz genres, including West Coast, fusion, post bop and nu jazz they also fielded gospel, funk, classical and hip-hop.
This was an astonishing concert by two jazz giants. One of those rare occasions when ninety minutes was simply not enough.
Joshua Redman / Brad Mehldau Duo
Venue: Concert Hall | QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank, Brisbane
Date: Sunday 23 October 2016
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246
Gillian is the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch.