Did I Just See Brad Mehldau?
Jazz and indie-rock, if not opposites, are distinctly unrelated; what they have most in common is a vastness that strains the terms of genre. It doesn't take much cynicism to suspect "Gold Sounds" and its label, the upstart Brown Brothers Recordings, of crossover designs. You would have to go back at least a generation to find a time when jazz claimed an audience as robust as indie-rock does today, and one as socially connected, fiercely protective and doggedly partisan. (On second thought, partisanship is another thing the two scenes have in common.)
Only a few jazz artists have successfully tapped into that audience. One, the pianist Brad Mehldau, was the headliner at the Village Vanguard with his trio last week; it's likely that a substantial portion of each full house was familiar with his past interpretations of Radiohead, a major-label band with indie-rock cachet. Another three-piece band, the Bad Plus, also reliably packs the Vanguard, and its base fits an indie profile more precisely; or at least, it includes a preponderance of 20-something white fans who don't otherwise visit jazz clubs. Last week, Mr. Mehldau's album "Day Is Done" (Nonesuch) was the second-ranked jazz recording on the college radio charts, as reported by CMJ New Music Report; "Suspicious Activity?" (Columbia), by the Bad Plus, had just slipped from third to fourth place. (On Billboard's general-interest jazz album sales chart, neither "Day Is Done" nor "Suspicious Activity?" ranked in the Top 10.) The new Bad Plus and Mehldau releases haven't yet been reviewed by Pitchfork Media, the online clearinghouse of indie-rock, but their previous albums have, and that's a distinction few jazz artists can claim. (A Pitchfork headline from September read: "The Bad Plus Make Jazz Cool Again With Album, Tour.")
I wish I'd been there the other night, but I did have one really amazing evening at the Vanguard listening to the Brad Mehldau Trio (when Jorge Rossi was on drums). I was a major fan of Brad Mehldau even before his Radiohead phase, but the first time I heard their rendition of "Everything in It's Right Place", I thought I could die happy. If I could only listen to one piece of music ever again for the rest of my life, I think I'd have to select that.
I've been trying to get "Day is Done" for a week now and every time I bring it up on iTunes, it says it's being "modified". Grrrr!