John Scofield Trio, Brad Mehldau Trio, Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Center, Richmond, VA- 4/12
Because of the venue, I knew that this show would be catered to a mixture of ages and tastes in music. Since Scofield's career and catalog span 30-some years, his appeal has a wide range of music appreciators. There were kids present for the Scofield funk, elderly people fond of the soothing collaborations Scofield has done with Pat Metheny, and middle-aged women who came for some Mehldau piano. Such an intimate auditorium can foster some of the most intense and audience-involved sessions, and Camp Concert Hall was of no exception.
Donned in earthy browns and sleek black top, Brad Mehldau and his trio took to the stage and began his set. Accompanied by Larry Grenadier on the bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, Mehldau swept through the night’s repertoire with grace yet wreckless abandon. Beginning with "All the Things You Are," Mehldau and his compatriots captivated the wide span of fans. They next moved to a song they debuted this night, a tune from the Brazilian film, Mrs. Flora and Her Two Lovers, entitled "Que Sera." This song composed by Chico Buarque reminds the listener that "whatever will be, will be." This song segued into a cover of Radiohead’s "Knives Out." Mehldau’s many albums include other covers of Radiohead songs, and he pulls them off nicely. This haunting inclusion brought the entire room to the edge of their seats, hung expectantly on the ears of the audience like the finest silk scarf draped across a velvet couch.Next the trio played "The Very Thought of You," a commonly-covered jazz piece done exceptionally and inventively. Finally, Mehldau turned to address the crowd and announced their final piece, "Day is Done" by Nick Drake. During this epic Ballard used a tambourine with his foot while also setting up driving rhythms for which no one in the room could sit still. Each musician was playing an intricately-improvised part, and each melded with the others to create complicated beauty. After the standing ovation, the trio exited the stage, preparing the equipment for Scofield.
The John Scofield Trio next came out on stage. Scofield, wearing a lime green striped shirt and black pants, gently coaxed the strings of his standard Ibanez to the beginning of "Green Tea" from his A Go-Go album done with Medeski, Martin, and Wood. With bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, the trio got everyone’s toes tapping and heads nodding. At first the appearance of Swallow playing his acoustic bass tricked me into thinking that there was no funk available. But looks can be deceiving as he paraded his soloing skills close to the bottom of the frets. The three stretched out again with their next song, "At Long Last Love." They then began the Burt Bacharach tune "Alfie" (of course not before Scofield made sure Mehldau had not already played it). This song can be found from the trio’s newest live album, On Route. Throughout, Stewart used brushes for his percussive instruments, creating a soft, mellow feel that pleased the majority of the crowd.
The younger subset of the audience seemed to grow restless during this time, as Scofield was playing to please his entire audience’s tastes. He made up for the lack of tempo in the next song, also from On Route, entitled "Hammock Soliloquy." Scofield told a bit of an anecdote before this piece, noting that his 17-year-old son had named the tune for him. Swallow soloed with some deep strumming while Scofield expanded on it, manipulating his strings for the funky pleasure of the fans. To end this piece (as well as a couple others from the evening), Scofield tapped on his delay pedals, in essence playing the chord backwards. However ingenious this tactic was, it was not pulled off as cleanly as he probably would have liked. Scofield is no stranger to electronic effects, so perhaps since he was mostly neglecting his "Boomerang" during the evening and then turned to it for the surprise ending, he was not comfortable or relaxed enough.
The trio next invited Brad Mehldau back to the stage for a little of what they called "jamband style" incorporation. For this encore they played a song called "Wee," a bop classic. Mehldau shone during his guest appearance, as well, as Scofield stepped back to watch his mastery. The short evening concluded with another standing ovation filled with enthusiastic praise from the crowd.