I was so hooked on the early Meldhau work – mostly trio jazz and sometimes some solo piano. And then he toured NZ with his trio and it was…I dunno…it was just boring. It was just exactly as it was meant to be I suppose and yet I somehow wanted more.
He won me back over with his extrapolations of Radiohead songs and other covers in both a solo and trio setting and then he’s been nothing but interested ever since, crossing over into classical, touching on keyboard-funk, pumping out jazz – on his own and in collaboration with many modern greats. He’s prolific and it’s always exciting.
Now, of course, I crave a return visit from him.
But in the wake of that there’s almost too much to unpack in Finding Gabriel, a biblical tale that stops by to comment on the modern American political landscape, featuring spoken-word pieces, brittle electro funk, the wordless vocals of the wondrous Becca Stevens and Kurt Elling (Make It All Go Away), the scurrying percussion of Mark Guiliana (The Prophet Is A Fool), Beach Boys-styled harmony vocals arriving on the back of Zappa-esque fusion (Proveb of Ashes)…I’m starting to feel like Stefon from SNL’s Weekend Update should be listing the attributes on display across this technicolour dreamboat album.
Yes, you’ll hear Mehldau do what he does best – it’s just that that has now stretched from solo and small combo piano settings to expansive orchestration, to the jamming jazz-funk energy of his Taming The Dragon project and beyond.
And here, in fury, funk and frankness it arrives all together.
Which will be far too much for many to handle. But it’s kinda dazzling and enriching in its busy throb.
By the time of the closing title track I think more of Prince’s The Rainbow Children than to Herbie Hancock or Jarrett or any of the names you might once have reached for as a touchstone for Brad Mehldau.
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