Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau: Nearness

Jeff Tamarkin on September 16, 2016

Saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau have worked sporadically on each other’s group projects since the ‘90s, but Nearness is their first duo release. Now, they will need to make a habit of returning to this format often—their chemistry has never been more pronounced. Recorded live during several European engagements, the six tracks—two from Mehldau, one by Redman and the others are covers—display what at times seems to be an effortless commingling of ideas, despite the intricacy inherent in their improvisations. The set opens with “Ornithology,” the Charlie Parker Hot Buttered Rum standard, Redman setting the tone without ever mimicking Bird’s lines and Mehldau playing it low-key. Midway they switch roles, not meeting up on equal turf till the piece is rolling toward its denouement. The mutual respect and awe has already been established, and it never flags. Mehldau, on this two compositions, first “Always August,” then “Old West,” is more than happy to invite Redman to move the melody elsewhere, and Redman’s “Mehlsancholy Mode” slides into a quasi-baroque stateliness that showcases both musicians’ gifts. Monk’s “In Walked Bud” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” could have been cakewalks for these two, but they won’t have any of that, instead bringing grandeur and sensitivity to their arrangements.

Artist: Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau
Album: Nearness
Label: Nonesuch