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Live in Tokyo

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Audio CD, September 14, 2004
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Product Description

Brad Mehldau has followed his musical inclinations into some surprise territories. First gaining attention as a member of Joshua Redman's quartet in the early 1990s, he could have easily been expected to unfold a new traditionalist's approach to jazz. Instead he's taken that formidable grounding and attached it to a wide range of compositional explorations. The solo piano Live in Tokyo is framed by a pair of Nick Drake compositions, and in between are pieces by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Thelonious Monk, and Radiohead, along with one original. The material is all linked by Mehldau's focus on melodic identity and harmonic invention. He succeeds in finding the stately heart of each number, with Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" sounding perfectly natural alongside Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?" --David Greenberger
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 14, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0002M5TCU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,637 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By ADB on January 15, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The funniest moment in this exciting live recording comes during "Monk's Dream," when Mehldau abruptly quotes Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" and begins playing around with that famous and delightful motif, eventually metamorphosing it back into Monk's classic tune. The pairing of these two jazz composers really works for me, as there is a fresh, child-like quality that pervades the work of both. Mehldau's development, though, is extremely thick and complex. Arguably, this material might have been better served by a more spare approach (which is not to say simplistic, as Monk is anything but). Then again, this resembles the maximalist way Coltrane tended to approach Monk's music.

Gershwin's "Someone to Watch over Me" has long served as a vehicle for solo piano improvisations. It was a particular favorite of Art Tatum, who threw down the gauntlet to posterity with his virtuoso wizardy. Oscar Peterson recorded a superb version in 1968, and it has been tackled more recently by such luminaries as McCoy Tyner (1988), Chick Corea (1993), Keith Jarrett (1999), and Benny Green (2001). Despite all this competition and historical baggage, Mehldau's version is both original and convincingly fresh. His only new composition here is a beautiful "Intro" to this song, setting the stage for a lyrical approach rather than the more typical Tatum-esque workout. The song builds expansively to a long passage that shows, as did certain parts of _Elegiac Cycle_, Mehldau's occasional stylistic affinities with minimalism.

Mehldau then deconstructs Cole Porter's "From This Moment On." Interesting and impressive, but I'm ready to put Ella on now.

A sprawling twenty-minute version of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" is the centerpiece of the album.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Peter Dick on September 24, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This live concert performance is genius of a high order. For those familiar with the improvised solo piano concerts of Keith Jarrett, this is perhaps the "next step". While treating existing tunes during this concert, it must be stressed that each tune is merely a "jumping off point" for something truly spontaneous. I consider it as wholly improvised as the Jarrett concerts where there is no "tune" treatment at all. What is astounding, even to those already familiar with Mehldau's brilliance, is the risk-taking at every turn. This music is courageous, original, organic, and exquisitely beautiful...Mehldau is a "spontaneous composer" who makes full use of the dynamic/touch qualities of the piano as a compositional device. The piano is an orchestra, and man does he ever orchestrate! He's walking the tightrope, and there's no safety net - miraculously, he never needs one.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Edward Batista on November 7, 2004
Format: Audio CD
My wife and I saw Brad Mehldau a few weeks ago as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival. He was playing solo, possibly touring to support this "Live in Tokyo" CD. We'd never seen him perform, but we've been listening to his stuff for the past few years, particularly the "Art of the Trio" series. The show was phenomenal--he'd play a few songs, then take a minute to talk to the audience, describing what he'd just played and what he was about to play. At the end of one such break, he said something like, "Well, I guess I should play something off my new album, 'Live in Tokyo.' Here's 'Paranoid Android.'" My wife knows I'm a big Radiohead fan, and she turned to me wide-eyed. I had read somewhere that Mehldau had been performing Radiohead songs, but I'd never heard them. It was astonishing. He captured the original's power and emotion, but took in some totally unexpected directions as well. Since he's starting with better source material, it's not quite as neat a trick as John Coltrane making great art out of "My Favorite Things," but it's pretty damn close. Based on that one song, I bought "Live in Tokyo," and it's excellent, if not quite at the level of what we heard in person. The disc's version of "Paranoid Android" seems a little tamer, but that may be just because it's not as fresh or surprising to me now. On the whole, a really satisfying listen--thoughtful, emotional, smart but not smug. Well worth buying, and if you ever get a chance to see him play in person, don't hesitate to go.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Cedric Westphal on December 5, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Brad Mehldau's first live solo album (I believe it is his second piano solo album after Elegiac Cycle) is quite impressive. The selection of the tunes is eclectic and non-conformist. He opens and ends with a Nick Drake tune (which I don't know) and he plays a Radiohead song as well. His exploring different tunes is not new. On his art of trio, vol.1, he was alreading goign away from standards by playing the beatles's blackbird. But lennon/mccartney songs are not that differently structured from a rodgers/hammerstein.

Anyhow, I quite enjoyed the texture of Paranoid Android, even though it runs 20mn. The song I like the most is monk's dream. I heard it on the radio, and it got me to buy this cd. It starts as monk's dream the jazz tune, but then it gets out of hand into Liszt-like virtuosity, way over there, before landing smoothly. Cole Porter and Gershwin's songs complete the album, and their familiarity is comforting, especially since the structure of the album alternates the stuff that pushes the envelope with the more traditional stuff.
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