Being There, Here
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Challenge Records **** RECOMMENDED
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Elan Mehler, and I’m so glad he’s made this record. Different to Scheme For Thought which was quite brilliant it’s more in keeping with the classic piano tradition and is equally a joy. I hear the ghost of Billy Taylor for some reason benign and beautiful hovering over Sy Oliver’s ‘Yes Indeed’ but ghosts are made flesh on Being There, Here. The tall Brooklynite, accompanied by bassist Tod Hedrick and drummer Max Goldman, conjures a sound that amounts to a sort of dream of being in the right place at the right time listening to the right kind of music, played in the right spirit. The Matt Joy title track has that mesmerising quality that you can’t bottle or wouldn’t wish to because it’s all about the moment; and the album beyond its intuitive improvisational flair also contains plenty of Ellingtonia, three tunes in all, a little Monk, and Mehler manages to channel Bill Evans without impersonating him (like Brad Mehldau used to do). Max Goldman is also a worthy successor to the late Paul Motian, and Hedrick is a real find with superb navigational sense. ‘Here’ is a spa hotel in Switzerland, where the album was recorded, the same hotel Gilles Peterson discovered Elan in years ago while the DJ was on a hipster holiday… chilling. I love all the background audience chat; the guests present were lucky to hear this fine music created. Mehler is a major talent although he is a modest person who probably doesn’t realise just how good he is. His gift is to channel atmosphere with a sensitivity and love of his material that shows in every note. Highlights? ‘Insensatez’ for sure and the title track, plus Elan’s folk-like gem, ‘Waltz Ferwerda’.
–-Stephen Graham, Marlbank