Mehliana by Adam Robinson – EFG London Jazz Festival, 21 November 2013

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This year’s ECHO Jazz award-winning pianist Brad Mehladau, and internationally acclaimed drummer Mark Guiliana, came together last night at Barbican Hall for a midway-stop on their European tour as the duo: Mehliana.

Positioned between a keyboard and a grand Fender Rhodes, each stacked with vintage synthesisers; Mehladau broke from acoustic solos to explore a space between the funk-filled cosmos of the 70s and the Eglo records style bass mixing born from it. Elbows cocked, either side of a spinal posture any physiotherapist would be proud of, he painted this soothing dimension. When Mark’s supple breaks wove into the air, the audience were released from looking into living.

Equipped with samples on drum keypads as well as keyboards, the duo tenderly unlocked their vision. Tranquil synth hums of deep space, punctuated by the percussion of travel, gently built until a cacophony of free jazz meteors were swallowing the auditorium.

Un-phased by an over-excited heckler, Mehladau and Guiliana enacted their roles in the story with unbending devotion. The painter, folding his legs on the duet bench, faced his partner’s percussive solo in meditation. It was a truly virtuosic break-beat display. Snare-rim with tambourine, and mini high-hat with ride combinations that perpetuated the idiosyncratic theme. When roles were reversed, the energy guide left his vehicle to stretch and refuel. Meanwhile, Brad’s fingers twinkled, tumbled and twirled from behind his body. Even at speed, his extremities somehow maintained such a graceful laze that, without his expression on view, one could have mistaken it for boredom.

Adam Robinson