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Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau: Nearness

"Finding new, deep emotional truths": Joshua Redman (left) and Brad Mehldau

Back in a previous century, Joshua Redman was the hottest new tenor in town. He had foregone Harvard Law School to play jazz. His third album, MoodSwing, in 1994, had an unknown kid on piano. Then people began to notice that this kid could knock you right on your ass with his solos, and the rest is history. Brad Mehldau is now one of the three or four most important piano players of our time. As for Redman, his career has been so diverse and distinguished that no one regrets the loss of one lawyer.

Since MoodSwing, each has appeared once on an album by the other. Nearness is their new duo project. First, the reservations: One, the duo is a problematic format. Major exceptions notwithstanding, duos tend to turn everything contrapuntal. Musicians in duos often overplay. Paradoxically, duos feel crowded. One would have preferred a quartet here. Two, why do so many great players want to be composers? Redman’s “Mehlsancholy Mode” and Mehldau’s “Old West” are nice, forgettable tunes.

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