Driving home from work the other night, after a relatively stressful day, my usual drive-time radio show was in a long commercial break, so I started channel surfing for something to bolster my mood. Sometimes I need something loud to drown out the day; sometimes it’s something funny to make me smile; sometimes it’s something soothing. NPR often works for the latter….sorta: soothing voices, but talk about news and politics. A mixed bag. So the surfing began:
- Rock station: Disturbed‘s “Indestructible”….no, too much for today.
- Classic Rock: something I didn’t recognize, and if there’s no nostalgia value, what’s the point?
- Adult Contemporary: Ryan Adams, I think. Maybe. Whatever.
- 90’s station: Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ “Give it Away”….most days ok, but a little frenetic for today.
- Alt-rock: Godsmack….NO under any circumstances. Terrible. (Sully Erna, you’re telling me to “Speak the Truth”, right? Ok, here you go: please stop putting out records.)
- Jazz/NPR: Here we go-
It took me a couple of seconds to recognize it (hey, it’s instrumental), but then I figured out that it was one from one of my favorite albums, Metheny/Mehldau, the final track, “Make Peace”. And – at a red light, thank you – I sighed, bowed my head, and said “Thank you.” I’ve been a long-time fan of Pat Metheny‘s guitar work and compositions, and a more recent fan of Brad Mehldau‘s piano work, but the two of them together is simply magical. The album is mostly piano/guitar duets, in largely through-composed-but-with-hooks contemporary jazz.
I use that term with hesitation because I can’t figure out a better one. I think jazz has evolved again for contemporary composers, like Metheny, who came out of the fusion movement of the 70’s and are searching now for creating beauty in melody and not in rhythmic and/or harmonic complexity. (Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter’s 1+1 album comes to mind.) Call it deconstructionist, perhaps, but not in an academic way. I first discovered this with Metheny’s earlier collaboration with Charlie Haden Under the Missouri Sky, which will merit its own post here later. In that case, it was a combination of their own individual compositions and a handful of others’, but the Metheny/Mehldau album has much more of a collaborative and interactive feel to it. The dynamics and fluidity of the interaction between the two seems improvised, although I’m sure that’s not the case.
I did get to see them live a couple of years ago- on a Sunday morning at church, I found out that M/M was in town, and a few of the other musicians were planning on attending. I called my mom and asked if she wanted to go – she’s a pianist and we’d enjoyed seeing Hancock & Shorter a few years earlier. We bought tickets and were at the Seattle Paramount Theatre a few hours later. It was a fantastic show. Never to disappoint, Metheny came out in his trademark bumblebee shirt. This was right after their second collaboration, Quartet, was released. The first album has a few quartet numbers, and the second is mostly quartet with only a few duet numbers. What a band, what a show. Mehldau’s hand independence was incredible. Seeing and hearing Metheny’s harp guitar (picture at right) on “The Sound of Water” was fascinating. I will definitely catch them again next time they come back – ideally I’ll have more than a few hours notice this time!