Brad Mehldau takes my breath away.
I went and saw Brad Mehldau at the El Ray tonight. Robert, who is producing the CD, came over and we worked on the mix until seven, and then we ran over to Wilshire to see the show. The line of people waiting for the concert was around the block. It was cold – seriously cold for L.A. The wind was really blowing hard. It was a shivery kind of nighttime weather, especially for a Hawaiian like Robert. They weren’t even letting people in until eight. We went to get coffee and watched the line from across the street. It barely moved. Finally, at eight thirty, I said, “Screw it, let’s leave. I’m already tired anyway.” Even though I love Brad Mehldau and I wanted to see him live, I was just too tired, too old to stand in that cold long line of people. I longed for a bed, for warmth, for a glass of wine.
We walked along Wilshire. The art deco buildings are gorgeous in mid-Wilshire. I forget how beautiful L.A. is. Then Robert said, “There’s a line of people that couldn’t get tickets that are waiting to see if they can get in, we should at least give them our tickets before we bale.” And it was true. On the other side of the long line of people who already had tickets, there was another long line of people hoping to just buy tickets and stand in the back. I guess the show was sold out and the theater was waiting to see how much room they really had. But the line of people with tickets was still hundreds of people long. In any case, we headed back to the theater.
We went right up to a security guard and I said, “Look, we aren’t going to stay for the show. We have tickets, but we don’t want to go in and..” And suddenly this security guard recognized me and she said, “I know who you are! Come on it, come on in.” So suddenly we were in the theatre. It was unfair, but welcome. Sometimes being recognizable is GREAT. I admit it.
By another stroke of luck, having nothing to do with someone recognizing me, we got amazing seats (it was open seating.) The show started at nine on the dot. The first song was astonishing, transporting, amazing, titillating. An improvisation on Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover.” There’s just Brad on piano and a bass player and a drummer. That’s it. I had a great bulls-eye view of Brad’s hands as they slid across the piano keys. I’ve never seen anyone play piano like that. I’ve never seen jazz musicians play off each other like that – seamless in unity, yet individual –sometimes it felt like they weren’t in the same room with each other, then in an instant they were tighter than any band I’ve seen before. Mehldau’s back sways and his hands are carried over the keys in this precise, off-handed, carefree way – totally both extremes at once. Disciplined and drunk, exacting and erratic. In some ways it didn’t even seem to occur to the musicians that we, the audience, were even there – that’s how little they were playing for the crowd. It felt like they were playing only for each other for minutes, tens of minutes on end – and then suddenly they’d realize we were all there watching and they’d shift their attention to us. We were privileged to watch such an intimate back and forth between them and it was something -- a tone, a reverie I’d never experienced before. I've never, ever, ever seen musicians in that kind of place -- that improvisation hallucination, but still tinkering on the edge of reality.
Robert and I walked down Wilshire afterwards, spent from the wonder: basking in the spectacle that is that trio. To think I almost missed it! And then the cold wasn’t so bad. The wind down Wilshire took the edge off, even – sobered us up. And it wasn't even all that late.
I love Los Angeles. I love Los Angeles.