Thursday, 15 November 2007

THE BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO: Everything In Its Right Place

This is what Radiohead’s world might sound like if everything were in the right place, or at least assumed on pain of excommunication to be in the right place. The whole of the Anything Goes album turns standards at right angles to paint a Manhattan picket fence future where everything looks to smile – Meldhau’s “Smile” smiles, so not to speak - but nothing is really allowed to go in the McLuhan or McGoohan sense. Larry Grenadier opens with a sombre post-Garrison drone bass meditation which takes in “Big Noise From Winnetka” and winds up crushed by the spiders at the bottom of Belafonte’s banana boat, allowing Brad’s aerated piano to float disquietingly into the partially hidden picture. Even though the topline is melodically minimal – in a Kid A world it’s all about what’s squealing and fading behind and below it – Meldhau makes the most of the pointed silences in between those 11 x 1 note lemon sucking statements, placing special emphasis on the discordance of the “right” in “right place,” but relenting back towards the ground rather than continue to tapdance the Stan Tracey spikes lurking at the top of the fence. He doesn’t forget “Maiden Voyage” – that sigh, the ineffable child-speaking whisper blowing incidentally, or centrally, through the second verse – nor Vince Guaraldi; as Meldhau slightly discloses himself to improvise we visualise a Peanuts world out of which Charlie B never really managed to grow, but like Bill Evans and Paul Bley he keeps his emotional cards clenched to jaw-secreting invisibility; when Jorge Rossi takes off on his drum solo, reciting his Tony Williams displacements and flutters, Meldhau doesn’t join in and rampage through Walton and Cecil like Keith Tippett would have done; he calmly waits for Rossi to cease blowing his top before signalling the performance’s end, ambiguous and hanging in a semi-purified, not yet detonated air.