Album + Live
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.