Brad Mehldau: River Man


River Man


Brad Mehldau (piano)


Live in Tokyo (Nonesuch 79853)

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Brad Mehldau (piano).

Composed by Nick Drake


Recorded: Live at Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo, February 13, 2003


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

In some circles, Mehldau may be almost as influential for his repertoire as his pianism. He has done more than any other musician of his generation to expand the concept of jazz "standards" beyond the traditional confines of Gershwin and Tin Pan Alley. Because of him, Radiohead and Nick Drake are now part of the great jazz game. Mehldau has also recorded Drake's "River Man" in an exemplary trio version, but this solo piano outing from a Tokyo concert offers a different perspective. Mehldau opens with a soothing melody statement, his left hand reminiscent of the strumming of Drake's guitar. But the textures soon get thicker and his phrases more insistent. By mid-solo he is attacking the keyboard with booming chords, harsh and angry, more Wagnerian than Drake-ish. We still encounter Mehldau's trademark "conversation between the hands," but instead of crisscrossing melodies, his two fists are hurling large harmonies back and forth at each other. We have now come full circle from the moody romanticism of the first Art of the Trio recording. This is formidable pianism, brash and challenging.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

If you liked this track, also check out

Brad Mehldau: River Man (trio version)
Brad Mehldau: Martha My Dear
Brad Mehldau: Exit Music (For a Film)

Related Links

Assessing Brad Mehldau at Mid-Career by Ted Gioia
The Dozens: Twelve Essential Brad Mehldau Performances by Ted Gioia
In Conversation with Brad Mehldau by Ted Panken

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