Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pat Metheny & Brad Mehldau - Quartet (Nonesuch, 2007)

Guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau continue their fruitful collaboration, this time adding the bass and drums of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard. Both of the principals seem to work best when they have talented peers to challenge them, so the energy level is pretty well sustained throughout. The musicians play at a very high level, and an encouraging sign is that all four are well integrated together, so this is not just a "superstars with rhythm" showcase. The upbeat numbers seem to work the best, with songs like "Fear and Trembling" using the rhythm team of Ballard and Grenadier as the engine to propel the guitar and piano to improvisatory flights. "Towards the Light" also keeps things moving briskly with some strong collective improvisation. The downside of the music is that things occasionally get so atmospheric, with the music becoming sort of aural wallpaper like on the new-agey "Sound of Water"which comes across as hip background music for the NPR crowd. This is a fairly good if mannered album of contemporary jazz, sure to please the fans of the two headliners, I'd love to hear this group just rear back on their haunches and jam, and maybe that's what will happen on the rumored live LP.

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