Friday, June 01, 2012

Brad Mehldau - NYC Jazz Record

Brad Mehldau - Ode

Despite drummer Jeff Ballard joining pianist Brad
Mehldau’s trio with bassist Larry Grenadier almost ten
years ago, this is the first studio album featuring just
the three of them. There are no orchestras or guests,
just Mehldau’s working group burning through over
an hour of original material.

As the title suggests, the tunes on Ode find
Mehldau in a reflective mode, paying homage to a host
of characters living, deceased and fictional. Curiously,
although this is the first studio album for the trio, 8 out
of the 11 tracks were waxed over three and half years
ago, with a few albums recorded and released in the

The album opens with a skittering homage to late
saxophonist Michael Brecker entitled “M.B.”.
Mehldau’s fingers dash in ten different directions like
cross-town traffic, swerving narrowly around each
other. The title track - Mehldau’s “ode to odes” - recalls
his earlier Jon Brion-produced pop approach with a
gentle lull of pure, pulsating chords driven by Ballard’s
vibrant cymbal. “Bee Blues” has the pianist in an
angular Monk mode, Grenadier taking an elegant
striding solo that Mehldau matches with a methodically
playful one.

“Twiggy”, a tune dedicated to Mehldau’s wife
Fleurine, features what sounds like Ballard playing the
drums with his hands and a persistent tambourine
jangling somewhere in the background, Mehldau’s left
hand building the tension as his right hand floats over
it. “Wyatt’s Eulogy for George Hanson” is a tribute to
Jack Nicholson’s murdered hanger-on in Easy Rider.
The nine-and-a-half minute track is the most ‘free’ tune
on the album as the band rumbles through a menacing
collective improvisation. The trio closes with “Days of
Dilbert Delaney”, written by Mehldau for his son.
Punctuated by Ballard’s rolling snare, the lengthy tune
is a satisfying display of Mehldau’s unrestrained

Although this is an album of remembrance it isn’t
particularly somber. Mehldau does ponder the ideas of
mortality while treasuring the importance of family
but it never gets as contemplative as his solo 1999
release Elegiac Cycle. The band is tightly locked in,
whether considering the cosmos or swinging hard,
which only further solidifies its command of the piano
trio format.

Brad Mehldau @ NYC Jazz Record

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