For contemporary jazz lovers, it’s nothing less than a match made in heaven. On April 10, the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie will host a stop on the eagerly anticipated tour pairing virtuoso pianist Brad Mehldau with legendary guitarist Pat Metheny.
A successful and artistically innovative guitarist adept at weaving folk, rock, and other musical threads into the jazz tapestry, Hudson Valley resident Metheny made his recording debut in 1974 with Jaco Pastorius and Paul Bley.
Now, 33 years later, listening to him speak about his current collaboration with Mehldau, it’s obvious that the 53-year-old Metheny’s musical batteries are fully recharged.
“Playing with [Mehldau] has been among the most exciting and pleasurable music making I’ve ever been a part of. Brad’s a lot better than me; he’s an absolutely astonishing musician,” says Metheny.
The classically trained, 37-year-old Mehldau began his musical journey as a sideman with heavy hitters like Lee Konitz, Wayne Shorter, and Charlie Haden, before garnering critical acclaim as the leader of his own trio.
Last month, Metheny and Mehldau released Metheny/Mehldau Quartet (Nonesuch), their second release in less than a year. The pair cut the disc with the Mehldau’s trio of bassist (and Kingston resident) Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.
Quartet is nearly the opposite of last year’s duet-dominated Metheny/Mehldau (Nonesuch) in that eight of the new album’s tracks feature the full quartet.
Metheny was clued in to Mehldau by saxophonist Joshua Redman, a mutual friend and collaborator. “[Redman] was just getting his band going and he told me, ‘I just hired this guy, you’re going to love him.’ I paid attention, because getting good piano players is really hard,” Metheny said. “A few months later when the record [Redman’s 1994 release, MoodSwing] came on the radio—just on the comping, not even the solos—I thought, ‘This has got to be that guy!’ It was one of those rare moments when I had to pull the car over to the side of the road.”
During the subsequent years, after Mehldau had referenced Metheny as an influence in numerous interviews, the two started to talk about working together. The problem was in finding synchronicity in the schedules of two musicians who are on the road for more than six months out of every year.
But studio time was booked, and leading up to the December 2005 recording dates, Mehldau and Metheny faxed music back and forth, resulting in 24 compositions for the musicians to hash out in the studio. And once they finally got in front of the microphones, they found there was an immediate chemistry between them.
“The X-factor was the melodic ideas that developed organically,” said Metheny. “You can’t talk about melody the same way you can describe harmony and rhythm; it’s very mysterious. And Brad is just really good at improvising melodies.”
The fruit of this labor is a stylistically diverse musical landscape that swings with fluidity and sophistication. Expect magic when Metheny and Mehldau bring it our way.
Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau perform at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on April 10 at 8pm. (845) 473-2072; www.bardavon.org.