If in the past few years you’ve bought an album of intelligent adult pop music produced in Los Angeles, odds are that Jon Brion or Mitchell Froom was in some way involved with it. Both have broad and deep musical knowledge and an instinctive ability to shape and arrange songs for maximum effect. While Brion (best known for his recent scores for “I Heart Huckabees” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) displays an irrepressible energy, Froom’s work on albums by Los Lobos, Bonnie Riatt and the Ditty Bops strikes a more reflective tone. The two shared the stage at Largo on Thursday night for an relaxed evening of musical camaraderie.
Froom started the show with a pensive set drawn from his new “A Thousand Days” (Kontext). With touches of classical, jazz and midcentury pop, Froom’s piano solos are filled with a wistful air of melancholy. They feel like latenight musings performed to unwind after a day in the studio.
Brion’s solo slot was more upbeat — an abridged, pianocentric version of his usual Friday night gig at the club. Kneeling, leaning, and reaching to play the different keyboards arrayed around him, Brion looked like a youthful mad scientist as he layered the sounds to create songs before your eyes.
“Same Thing” used nonstandard piano sounds (tapping the soundboard, scraping a piece of metal along the strings to create a harp-like glissando) to build a rhythm track, while the swells of Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” were assembled instrument by instrument, voice by voice.
Their duets, which made up the final portion of the evening, showed how their different sensibilities combine, running through variations on an insouciant theme that could have come from one of Henry Mancini’s ’60s score. Their version of the Duke Ellington standard “Take the A Train” found Brion favoring a skittering line in his solos; Froom’s worked against the grain of the melody for a more traditional jazz turn.
They were joined by Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers on a rollicking New Orleans boogie and a jaunty cover of the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon.”