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Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: 2017.01.27
31:24 / 29:45
Category: Jazz
Producer(s): Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
Media type: 2xCD
Web address: www.bradmehldau.com
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

Disc 1

[1] The Old Shade Tree (B.Mehldau/Ch.Thile) - 6:26
[2] Tallahassee Junction (B.Mehldau) - 5:54
[3] Scarlet Town (D.Rawlings/G.Welch) - 6:03
[4] I Cover the Waterfront (J.Green/E.Heyman) - 7:00
[5] Independence Day (E.Smith) - 3:10
[6] Noise Machine (Ch.Thile) - 4:50

Disc 2

[1] The Watcher (B.Mehldau) - 5:27
[2] Daughter of Eve (Ch.Thile) - 8:58
[3] Marcie (J.Mitchell) - 4:50
[4] Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (B.Dylan) - 6:02
[5] Tabhair dom do Lámh (Ruaidri Dáll Ó Catháin) - 4:19

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Chris Thile - Mandolin & Vocals, Producer
Brad Mehldau - Piano, Producer

Robert Hurwitz - Executive Producer, Liner Notes
James Farber - Engineer, Mixing
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Gabe Witcher - Editing
Ben Tousley - Design
Michael Wilson - Photography

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

Recorded December 30, 2015, and January 2-3, 2016, at Avatar Studios, New York, NY. Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York, NY.

Other than the album's genre-crossing premise, there's nothing particularly gimmicky or flashy about bluegrass singer/songwriter Chris Thile and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau's 2017 Nonesuch collaboration, Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau. Simply put, Thile and Mehldau deliver a set of deeply engaging, organically realized songs that perfectly balance their respective jazz and bluegrass skills. Given that they seemingly come from polar ends of the musical spectrum, the collaboration may feel like an odd choice at first. However, after hearing this debut, one might be hard-pressed to imagine a more compatible duo to emerge from their generation than these two distinctive mavericks. The similarities have always been there; both musicians started out as purist arbiters of their prospective roots-based genres, but later transitioned into leading proponents of their own progressive, harmonically nuanced musical ideologies. Thile broke the mold when he started incorporating pop, folk, and traditional bluegrass with Nickel Creek, a permutable instinct later underlined with his nods to rock and fusion with the Punch Brothers. Similarly, while Mehldau is often justifiably compared to jazz icons like Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, his reconceptualization of alt-rock hits by Radiohead and Nirvana, combined with his deft improvisational skill, long marked him as a gentle jazz radical. This inkling that both artists shared a philosophical and aesthetic sensibility is apparently exactly what motivated executive producer and label president Robert Hurwitz to introduce the two to each other after a Punch Brothers show several years prior to this album. Subsequently, Thile and Mehldau began playing together casually, purportedly developing a strong rapport. Based on the songs here, that rapport sounds effortless, as they warmly intertwine both their instruments and voices on covers like a rambling take on Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and an evocative reworking of Joni Mitchell's "Marcie." One minute, Mehldau is framing Thile's yearning vocals in soft, velvety chords and the next, Thile is comping with furious intensity on his mandolin as Mehldau launches into a cascading solo. The duo's original songs are also quite fascinating, particularly the Eric Clapton-esque "The Old Shade Tree" and the poetic, classically inflected "Noise Machine," inspired by the recent birth of Thile's first child. These are deeply hued, literate songs, as personal as anything either artist has done, yet delivered with an almost startlingly robust virtuosity. Even when they defy expectations, as when Thile sets down his mandolin for a piano-accompanied reading of the standard "I Cover the Waterfront," or when they eschew lyrics for an instrumental version of Elliott Smith's "Independence Day," there's a palpable sense of real listening, of generously shared creativity. Ultimately, it's that synergistic spark that makes Thile and Mehldau's collaboration sound less like a one-off experiment and more like the start of a lasting partnership.

Matt Collar - All Music Guide

Mandolin and piano is as unlikely an instrumental pairing as you’ll find. Putting them together in a duo really shouldn’t work, but Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau clearly didn’t get the memo. This meeting of two masters of their respective realms is a spine-tingling triumph – a honky, gutsy, jaunty, darkly witty new musical alloy that is suitably strange yet strangely familiar.

Thile has spent the past 20 years rewriting the bluegrass rule book with his groups Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, along the way acquiring an unprecedented virtuosity on his instrument and branching out into solo performances of Bach partitas and collaborations with everyone from YoYo Ma to Edgar Meyer.

Mehldau, too, aside from being the most copied jazz pianist of his generation, has shown an admirable tendency to mix outside his comfort zone, notably with producer Jon Brion on the rock-influenced Largo (2002) and with drummer Mark Guiliana on the superb Taming the Dragon (2014).

One can only hope, on the evidence of their first recording together, that there is more to Thile and Mehldau than just a fleeting collaboration. The 11 songs here dig down into the roots of American music, touching the common ancestry of jazz and country but coming up fresh and turned boldly to the post-genre future. Alongside some excellent originals are edgy readings of songs by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Fiona Apple. Scarlett Town, one of many highlights, is a dark murder ballad from Nashville duo David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, with Mehldau providing backing vocals to Thile’s high tenor.

It takes more than virtuosity to make music send shivers down your spine. You need generosity and vision, impeccable taste and a willingness to take risks. Still, the fact that Thile and Mehldau are as fine a pair of instrumentalists as you’ll hear anywhere doesn’t hurt a bit.

Cormac Larkin - Jan 26, 2017

Two very different musicians hit a remarkable rapport on this double album: bluegrass mandolin virtuoso and vocalist Chris Thile, and jazz piano star Brad Mehldau. But they’re bonded (and have been, since their first partnership in 2011) by affection for Bach, the Beatles, blues and bluegrass alike. Thile sings a lot, invoking an ethereal falsetto, the imploring call of a ’50s teenage crooner, a nasal Dylanesque snarl, or a rural bluesman’s grouchy defiance. Mehldau’s catchy country-rock vamps regularly appear, driving his partner toward a mandolin version of Django Reinhardt’s speed and swing on his own Tallahassee Junction. Thile’s voice and Mehldau’s explosive double-time improv develop Gillian Welch’s foreboding Scarlet Town (not the Dylan song of the same name), Thile is more sassily talkative than Dylan on a version of Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, and the pair’s account of the constantly key-shifting, melodically roaming Daughter of Eve emphasise how much they prefer interesting challenges to the note-spraying country-funky party pieces their gifts could have made so easy for them.

John Fordham - 26 January 2017
© 2017 Guardian News and Media

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau is an album by Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau. It was released by Nonesuch Records on January 27, 2017. Mandolinist and vocalist Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau first played together in 2011 when Mehldau had a residency at London's Wigmore Hall. Their first tour as a duo was two years later. They performed together again in 2015, after which they recorded this studio album.

The album contains a mix of originals and covers. The latter "include Bob Dylan's 'Don't Think Twice It's Alright', Joni Mitchell's 'Marcie', Elliott Smith's 'Independence Day' as well as a composition by late 16th /early 17th century Irish harpist and composer Ruaidri Dáll Ó Catháin". Thile's singing covers a range of effects, including "invoking an ethereal falsetto, the imploring call of a '50s teenage crooner, a nasal Dylanesque snarl, or a rural bluesman's grouchy defiance". The music was recorded in Avatar Studios in New York City on December 30, 2015 and January 2–3, 2016. The album was released by Nonesuch Records on January 27, 2017. It is available as two CDs, two LPs, or as a download.

The Irish Times' reviewer commented that the songs on the album "dig down into the roots of American music, touching the common ancestry of jazz and country but coming up fresh and turned boldly to the post-genre future".


Virtuoses, mitreißendes Gedudel.

Lange nichts gehört vom Tausendsassa aus Kalifornien: Nachdem Chris Thile mit Nickle Creek, den Punch Brothers, unter eigenem Namen und in Kollabo-Projekten ständig neue Alben herausbrachte, war Anfang 2015 für zwei Jahre Schluss.

Das mag daran liegen, dass er im selben Jahr Vater geworden ist. Oder dass sein Label nicht mehr wusste, wie es die vielen Platten vermarkten sollte. Ganz von der Bildfläche verschwunden war Thile natürlich nicht, wie das vorliegende Album mit seinem Nonesuch-Kollegen Brad Mehldau zeigt: Seit 2011 traten sie mehrmals zusammen auf, bevor sie sich Ende 2015 in New York ins Studio begaben.

Ganze drei Tage, den 30. Dezember sowie den 2. und 3. Januar 2016, brauchten sie, um den vorliegenden Longplayer einzuspielen. Produzent oder weitere Musiker: wozu? Bei zwei solch virtuosen Spielern reichte es, die Rec-Taste zu drücken.

Die Aufteilung stand ohnehin fest: Mehldau am Flügel, Thile an Mandoline und Mikrophon. Den ersten Track "The Old Shade Tree" schrieben sie zusammen, das restliche Material besteht aus Stücken entweder des einen oder des anderen. Dazu Interpretationen: Elliott Smiths "Independence Day", Gillian Welchs (mit Partner Davis Rowlings) "Scarlet Town", Joni Mitchells "Marcie" und Bob Dylans "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright", außerdem der Standard "I Cover The Waterfront". Das letzte Stück stammt von einem irischen Komponisten, der vor gut 400 Jahren lebte: Ruaidri Dáll Ó Catháin. Die Vinyl-Ausgabe bietet zusätzlich Fiona Apples "Fast As You Can".

Das Duo geht diese Bandbreite mit der gewohnten Energie und guten Laune an. Erstaunlich, wie bei so vielen Noten nie ein Augenzwinkern fehlt. Dass dabei zwei Instrumente zusammen kommen, die in der Theorie nicht so richtig zusammen zu passen scheinen, fällt beim Hören gar nicht auf. Man könnte meinen, diese beiden haben noch nie etwas anderes getan als zusammen zu spielen.

Ein hochwertiges Album also, das trotz der Virtuosität leicht wie eine Feder durch die Luft schwebt. Dennoch sorgt es für Bewegung sorgt: Das natürliche Medium dieser Aufnahmen ist die Schallplatte. Das führt bei einer Spieldauer von 70 Minuten und zwei Vinyl-Scheiben dazu, dass man sich drei Mal vom Sofa erheben muss.

Da geht es CD-Hörern besser. Sie müssen nur einmal aufstehen, der Schuber erhält ebenfalls zwei Silberlinge. Der Grund kann kein technischer sein, schließlich würden die zehn Stücke auch auf einen passen. Eine Hommage an die Vinyl-Version? Oder eine neue Mode? Auffällig, dass es Metallica vor wenigen Monaten ebenfalls so gehandhabt haben.

Doch das bleibt die einzige Gemeinsamkeit zwischen den Schwermetallern und dem Jazz/Bluegrass-Duo. "Brad und Chris definieren den Begriff des modernen Musikers neu", stellt Medien-Manager Robert Hurwitz, der die zwei zusammen brachte, in den Liner Notes passend fest. "Beide kennen sich mit der Tradition aus, ihre Musik hört sich oft bekannt an, was an der Natur ihrer Instrumente, ihren Hintergründen, Persönlichkeiten und Erfahrungen liegt. Dennoch haben sie etwas erschaffen, das wir noch nie vorher gehört haben."

Giuliano Benassi - 27. Januar, 2017

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