Monday, 9 December 2013

Brad Mehldau / Mehliana - Rorschach Jazz

Brad Mehldau - Keys
 This isn't my usual style but neither was it your usual jazz concert. An expectant audience packed the Barbican (19/11/2013) to see / hear Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana perform as electric duo Mehliana. The auditorium was pitch black but lit my a sickly pink light and an illuminated splattered backdrop high above the heads of both musicians.

Mark Guilana
Keyboardist Brad Mehldau with back to the audience didn't acknowledge us once, in fact because of his deep concentration he deliberated thrust his face in the opposite direction. At the height of his musical passion he would rub his cheek against his shoulder like a needy animal that needs comforting.

Tune 1
Drummer Mark Guiliana was the juxtapoint to Mehldau's deep introverted behaviour, his demeanour was exaggerated, he was often screwed tight in a ball and then thrust himself out over his kit. Guiliana faced the ample No Man's Land between himself and his co-conspirator. In fact there was a tension and energy that floated in between the two of them, a crackling electricity that sucked us in like a shadowy magnetic pole.

Tune 2
The room was so dark and with the skittish Mehldau hiding in his warren of piano, synths and Fender Rhodes it could of been a very frustrating night. So lifting the cartridge out of one of my pens, I started to empty the contents onto the page, letting intuition be moulded by the music. What materialised were a set of ink blots, five are reproduced here and another 3 ended in an undefined mess. It seemed a perfect solution, with no other pointers to direct the audience, no titles to the tunes, no chat from Mehldau and this gaping symmetric splurge of the backdrop hanging above us all. This was a cross between a relaxing dream and a therapy session.

Tune 4
Tune 1 and the afore mentioned energy between the Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana became the two plasma spheres as they sparked with electrical surges, but it was a crackle and spit in slow motion. Mehldau hands scissored, his left going right and vice-versa, it was like he was playing Twister and Guiliana was spinning the wheel. Tune 2 reminded me of a fictional Berlin, it is night time, and there are bright glowing toy automatons dancing in a shop window. They are not totally innocent children's playthings though, with their sinister creeping you fear they may break through the glass.

Tune 5
Tune 4 was a lunar leap in slow motion, with its wide arms outstretched it welcomed us. Here Mehldau started his cheek rubbing with fervour. Tune 5 had a heavy ringing soul, it reminded me of a gym addicted Tin-Man from the Wizard of Oz whacking a punch bag in frustration. A mixture of exploding screws and the dull thump as the daggling leather sausage is compacted. Here in the Barbican audience there was little disquiet, the woman sitting next to me fell asleep and a man heckled Mehldau, airing his frustration with the lack of piano action.

Personally I gave myself over to the music and let my emotions fester like they were the black fungus of a Rorschach ink blot. The encore was the watershed for a few more who departed the auditorium, while for the majority who stayed it seemed they had been infected beyond sanity itself. The final tune started as if Ray Manzarek had just rolled in on his bulldozer and then broke into a subtle dance between spindly insects. Nature's disturbing macabre delicacy obviously crept into my last blot of the night.

You've got a chance to hear for yourself, because it was recorded by Radio 3 for Jez Nelson's London Jazz Festival programme, but you've only got 14 hours left to see what imagery you can conjure from the inkblot of your subconscious.


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