BRAD MEHLDAU & CHRIS THILE | London, The Barbican

Chris Thile has described the unlikely combination of his blue-grass mandolin and Brad Mehldau’s virtuosic jazz piano as “like a woodpecker getting together with a lion.”  His choice of simile unfairly conjures images of the former irritatingly pecking away at the patience of the docile lion basking in the savannah.  In truth, the dynamism of their interplay is closer to a game of cat and mouse: Mehldau’s counterpoint entangles its way around the percussive mandolin lines, only for Thile to wriggle free and tease with an equally intricate line.  The interplay romps from meditative to explosive, seemingly rooted in telepathy throughout.

On the pairs’ 2017 recording entitled Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (the creativity perhaps exhausted on the music with none remaining for a more inspired title) there are moments when Thile’s voice doesn’t always blend with Mehldau’s naturally sonorous lines.  Tonight, however, his falsetto soared and dived, flying through octaves in easy compliment.  On Garden of Eden his playing channelled biblical fury: fiery fingers burned across the fretboard and his angular frame flitted between rock-star poses rocking on tip-toes and stomping the carpeted stage.  Throughout, Mehldau’s understated presence is a constant of ease and class.

EFG London Jazz Festival scooped the coup of Brad and Chris’ only UK performance this year.  Do whatever you can to make sure you don’t miss the next opportunity to see this very very special collaboration.

The EFG London Jazz Festival has only just begun.  Check out what’s still to come, here.

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