A few nights ago‚ Adam King (State of Mind writer) was telling me about his "100 Best Albums of the Decade" list. We discussed many records -- the obvious and not so obvious ones. As we jumped record to record‚ one that popped up in my head that I would rank high on my list is Brad Mehldau's Largo.
I have not interviewed Mehldau yet‚ unfortunately. Years ago it was in the works‚ but it fell through and I haven't pursued it since. He's still one of those musicians I feel like I need to talk to‚ as his playing resonates so deeply with me. This was around the time that either Day is Done or House On Hill was released -- both records showcasing the incredible dynamics of his trio (piano‚ bass and drums). A lot of people would say this is Mehldau at his best -- just playing live‚ acoustic with his trio.
Largo‚ from 2002‚ was different. He teamed up with producer Jon Brion and made a record that gave jazz a kick in the teeth. It's so "jazz" because of how fresh‚ forward-thinking and evolving it sounds. Mehldau's distinct voice on the piano comes through -- he hauntingly wraps himself around the melody of Radiohead's "Parnoid Android" and his playing is so sensitive and gorgeous on "When It Rains." He plays vibes on a mash up of "Waves/Mother Nature's Son" that sounds like nothing he's ever done before or since -- it's stunning. And throughout‚ Largo buzzes with dissonant electronics and interesting grooves (you have to love a record with Matt Chamberlain on drums)‚ and it sounds as if he grabbed all the great sounds of the modern age and found an interesting way to use them and twist them around. And with that‚ the album represents one of my favorite parts about the nature of the jazz language -- it feels like right now and we're looking ahead.
One of the things I wanted to pick his brain about then was whether or not he had the desire to make another record with as much sonic experimentation as Largo. The question has been answered today (3/16) with the release of Highway Rider -- a new collaboration between Brad and Jon. Check out the video:
Here's a cool blog that talks about the influence Largo had on younger musicians.
Visit Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau Highway Rider