I have never seen an attendant requesting a concert goer to turn off her laptop before the start of a show. On closer inspection, the set-up in Tivoli Vredenburg has much in common with a lecture hall. Ten minutes later than planned, the lights dim and Brad Mehldau, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard enter the stage. Ballard and Grenadier position themselves behind their instruments, Mehldau receives the enthusiasm of his audience with a deep bow. The Brad Mehldau Trio kicks off with a fast blues. The double bass is the first to play a solo. During Ballard’s drum solo, Mehldau turns demonstratively towards the drum kit. Mehldau himself improvises virtuoso but sharp using his both hands.
The second piece is an unruly jazz waltz. Halfway Grenadier adjusts his amplifier. Coincidence or not: from that moment on the trio sound in the hall is much better balanced.
Mehldau has a special affinity with the Lennon and McCartney repertoire. His arrangements have given several Beatle songs new luster and glory. ‘Baby’s In Black’, that I hear for the first time in the Mehldau version, can be added to this list. The trio play it slowly and give this relatively simple piece a hair-raising intense gospel feeling.
After two or three long pieces of music, Mehldau grabs the microphone and gives some information about the works they play half in Dutch, half in English. Mehldau recorded ‘All The Things You Are’ and ‘The Nearness Of You’ earlier on a CD, but they sound different this evening.
After an hour, Mehldau announcesd their final tune. ‘Holland’ is a composition by Sufjan Stevens who made an entire album about Michigan where the town of Holland is located. This lazily played jazz waltz fits in perfectly with Mehldau’s approach.
It is hardly a surprise that the trio is recalled for an encore. In the knowledge that they can’t do anything wrong here, the three musicians start a very fast rendition of ‘It’s Allright With Me’. Grenadier plays an almost literally breakneck bass solo. But it still isn’t enough. The audience keep calling for more. Mehldau seizes the opportunity to draw his audience’s attention to a concert by his Dutch wife, singer Fleurien, later this year in the same venue. He apparently mentions the wrong date and Fleurien corrects him from the hall.
The trio play a nice version of ‘I Should Care’ and during the applause the first people leave the hall. The clapping and cheering continues until the Brad Mehldau Trio prepare for their third encore. Mehldau announces ‘Valsa Brasileira’, but Fleurien has taken the lead: ‘West Coast Blues!’ she shouts from the dark. ‘Never argue with the wife,’ Mehldau reacts stoically and plays the blues like no one else can.
Pictures: Tim van Veen