First of a series of releases from the superstar pairing of pianist Brad Mehldau and...
Peter Marsh 2006
Last December Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau holed themselves up in a New York recording studio for a week, occasionally roping in Brad's rhythm section for support. This CD is the first fruit of their collaboration and features ten (and mostly new) original tunes.
Piano/guitar duets are rare, and all of them have the holy grail of the Bill Evans and Jim Hall recordings to live up to. And as both players are fairly strong influences on Mehldau and Metheny, comparisons are bound to be inevitable.
From the opening notes, it's clear that the pair are incredibly well suited, despite never having played together before this session (their writing is also surprisingly similar too). Mehldau brings out an unadorned clarity in Metheny's playing; "Ahmid 6" in particular recalls the glories of Metheny's early ECM albums. Elsewhere their quicksilver interplay and harmonic sophistication is more obviously redolent of the Hall and Evans collaborations, but maybe that's inevitable.
However when Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard turn up for Metheny's "Ring of Life" and Pat whips out his trademark guitar synthesizer the mood is rather rudely shattered, even though Mehldau's solo is one of the album's high points. Likewise Metheny's adoption of acoustic guitar on a couple of the duets makes for a slightly different sound, though it's not an entirely comfortable fit with Mehldau's piano.
It's hard to fault this album; there's a lot to enjoy here for fans of both musicians. But taken in one sitting it all seems a bit indigestible, for a reason I can't quite put my finger on. A few more rough edges wouldn't have hurt perhaps. Nice enough, but I'm off to listen to Intermodulation.