Thursday September 01, 2011
from The Guardian
Brad Mehldau/Chris Thile Wigmore Hall, London
By John Fordham
An obscure musical gag enquires: if a guitarist and a mandolinist fall off a cliff, who hits the deck first? The guitarist, of course; the mandolin player has to stop to tune up halfway down. Chris Thile, the mandolin genius from the million-selling Nickel Creek band certainly did a lot of tuning at the Wigmore Hall with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau. But since he had opened the show with a torrent of solo improvisations on spirituals and country songs, and an imperious adaptation of Bach’s D Minor Partita for Violin, the audience was anticipating the next impossible thing he would do.
This duet was the penultimate concert in American piano star Mehldau’s two-year occasional residency at the Wigmore. After Thile’s intro had received the kind of ovation normally reserved for a finale, Mehldau struck up his signature rocking chord vamp over which lightly struck motifs swell to sensuous extended melodies. Thile kept cajoling him with percussive snaps, flying runs, and chords strummed fast enough to sound as seamless as a purring strings section, inducing Mehldau (who can sometimes retreat into a slow-swaying trance) to bat back the playful provocation with stinging rejoinders. Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right brought the house down through Thile’s sympathetic singing and increasingly animated improv-swapping between the pair.
The two ought to have got under each other’s feet, given the thinness of the mandolin’s sound, and their mutual appetite for blizzards of notes. But their musicality and sympathy for each other’s emerging ideas, made it an unexpected tour de force.
Read the full article here