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Culture Watch: Brad Mehldau's 'Live in Marciac' double CD and DVD

February 21, 2011 |  9:00 am

Mehldau Brad Mehldau's 'Live in Marciac'

On the heels of stretching his sound into the wide-screen sweep of 2010's "Highway Rider," pianist Brad Mehldau is distilled to his barest essence with "Live in Marciac," a two-CD live recording of a solo set at a French jazz festival that also includes an intimately shot DVD.

Mehldau's catholic taste in covers is well documented, and he returns to familiar targets such as Radiohead's "Exit Music (for a Film)" and Nick Drake's "Things Behind the Sun," unearthing unexpected melodic tangents in both with a fearless grace. A skittering yet surprisingly buoyant take on Nirvana's "Lithium" marks another highlight, as do a knotty cluster of originals on the first disc. Sounding almost like a piano duet more than a few times, Mehldau's technical mastery can be enough to make your head spin, but the feeling is invigorating.

-- Chris Barton