Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau, 'Nearness' (Nonesuch)
Thank heavens for Manfred Eicher and ECM Records. What they did for the cause of chamber jazz in the early '70s transformed the way jazz musicians made solo and duo records.
It also changed audiences for them - and the rise of solo and duo concert performances.
Disc unheard, the only possible question with this would be whether or not it's fully equal to the talent involved. Saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau are not only two of the greatest players in current jazz, they are musicians completely compatible in every way. Which makes the six selections recorded live here on a 2011 European tour tremendous at best and merely wonderful at worst.
What you're hearing are live duo performances from Madrid; Bern, Switzerland; Frankfurt, Germany; Dusseldorf, Germany, and Kongsberg, Norway. Charlie Parker, I think, would have laughed heartily at how inventively they assail his bebop classic "Ornithology." Their take on Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud" is probably a bit more studious than Monk would have liked but my guess is that he too would have been thrilled by how free the jazz imagination had come to be when playing classic bebop tunes.
Redman's "Melancholy Mode" and Mehldau's "Always August" are exquisite. "The Nearness of You" is a gorgeous ballad masterpiece by absolute new generation jazz masters. Redman's coda is stunning.
4 stars (out of four)