Last night was the Brad Mehldau Experience at Zankel Hall, which I’m happy to see got a rather good review in the Times. The concert was pretty much a straight run-through of his double album (more on this in a bit) Highway Rider, for a quintet of soloists and chamber orchestra. Matt Chamberlain’s drumming was particularly revelatory to me; I’m not a jazz connoisseur by any means, but it seemed to me that he was having an especially wonderful time on stage, foiling and delighting with every turn of phrase. Chamberlain doesn’t move the way I’ve seen other good drummers move; he doesn’t look loose or relaxed at all, rather more like a spring-loaded puppet with fewer joints than most humans. Whereas another drummer would flick his wrist, Chamberlain moves his entire arm, like a martial artist; it doesn’t look particularly comfortable to me, but I was enthralled by the visual effect of it, and by the incredibly complex layers of rhythm and timbre it produced.
Brad had let his grey hair grow out a bit, and also gotten thinner and put on a small velvet suit, which gave him a crazy-but-dapper professorial quality, a professor who was also possibly a charismatic and successful cult leader. His playing was characteristically inventive and virtuosic, including what sounded like an improvised fugue (!) somewhere in the last few movements (I don’t think it’s on the CD). I’m not even sure I remember how to write a fugue, much less improvise a completely natural and bad-ass sounding one, in a jazz piece. As good as it was, Highway Rider tested the limits of my concert-sitting abilities; six years of attending New Music New Haven has over-sensitized me to long concerts, and around the two hour mark I start to panic and wonder if my bike is still doing OK. Speaking of which, Carnegie Hall really needs some bike parking. It doesn’t have to be an eyesore; it could actually be an opportunity to class things up. Hire a blacksmith to do some wrought-iron grille work! Or hire David Byrne. Or teach David Byrne how to smith.
I opened the refrigerator today and found myself face to face with a large cauliflower, and nothing else. I’d picked it up at the Ft. Greene farmers’ market last weekend (which I like because it doesn’t overwhelm me). The main challenge with turning a cauliflower into an entire meal is that, frankly, it’s cauliflower. But this is a happy story, with a delicious ending, good enough in fact to post it up here.
Take a head of cauliflower and hack it into medium bits. Toss it up with a fair bit of chopped garlic, smoked paprika, salt, olive oil, and (this is key) Moroccan preserved lemon. Spread it out on a baking sheet and roast at 425º for half an hour or so. While that’s happening, toast up some pecans in a skillet with a bit of chili powder. Once the cauliflower has browned parts (see fig. 1) take it out of the oven and put the pecans on top. Let the whole mess cool— it seems to get better and sweeter at room temperature.