Music Review: Brad Mehldau Live in Tokyo

Live in Tokyo
Brad Mehldau
Nonesuch, 2004

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About a year ago, a friend turned my on to Brad Mehldau. We had been corresponding by e-mail, talking about music, and I mentioned that I was a big Bill Evans fan. The friend mentioned Mehldau, suggesting that I look into one of his Art of the Trio albums. I did. I was hooked.Now, with about ten Brad Mehldau albums – some solo, but most with his trio – I’ve become and unconditional fan. So I keep my eyes open for every new release. This new recording, his first with his new label Nonesuch, is the first live solo disc he has made. He performs many familiar songs, a few new ones, and the now-obligatory Radiohead cover (a nearly 20 minute rendition of Paranoid Android).

The sound is great; the piano seems recorded from a slight distance, allowing the music to bloom in the hall, and the performance is what I have come to expect from Mehldau: tight, yet flexible, with restrained improvisation that highlights his creativity and feeling for the music.

My favorite track on the album is River Man, the final track, a somewhat melancholy ballad that is perfectly fitting for the last song of a set or a recording. Here, Mehldau takes the repetitive left-hand part as a solid base for a lyrical improvisation of the song’s simple tune, and increases the tension and complexity as he goes on. Sheer bliss.

There is something interesting to note about this album. It is available in two forms: on CD and by download from the iTunes Music Store. What is interesting, however, is that the iTunes Music Store offers the equivalent of a double CD for a little more than the usual album price ($13.99), whereas this double CD is not available on plastic. Even more surprising, the iTunes Music Store does not mention this difference, and the only indication on Brad Mehldau’s web site is a link on the main page, but there’s nothing on the page for the disc itself. It’s almost as if they wanted to keep it under wraps, to see whether fans notice.

So, if you just have to have the disc, go for plastic; but if you want the music, you get about two hours’ worth from the iTunes Music Store version. In either case, go for it: this is perhaps Mehldau’s best recording yet.

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4 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    Serendipity! A couple of days ago I added the standard version of "Live in
    Tokyo" to my iTMS shopping cart, not realizing there was also an
    extended version. Thanks to my habit of accumulating items in my cart
    for a while before buying, and especially thanks to this blog entry, I
    replaced it with the double-length album. Whoop!

    à la prochaine,
    -derek

    ps — I came to your site by way of your presence on macosxhints.com.

    Reply
    • Kirk says:

      Interesting – I didn’t see a standard version of the album on iTunes…

      [...]

      Huh… I just went back and looked, and indeed, there it is. Lucky for me I
      didn’t spot that at first; I might have ended up buying it. :-)

      Reply
  2. Anonymous says:

    I just wish they would offer music on Apple
    Loss Less at the iTunes store. While I usually
    don’t care about the difference when it
    comes to U2 or REM, a Mehldau album or any
    other jazz or classic album needs better
    sound quality — just my opinion.

    Reply
    • Kirk says:

      I definately agree. I was hoping that the introduction of Apple lossless would
      lead to at least some music being offered in this format. Maybe in the future?

      Reply

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