by Ian Mann
January 30, 2006
An eclectic mix of jazz, superbly played. The trio embark on an English tour this February - make sure you check them out.
The celebrated American pianist Brad Mehldau is due to tour England with his trio from 7th February 2006. On the evidence of the music on his latest album this should be a series of concerts well worth seeing.
The 35-year-old has been playing in a trio context for a decade now with his colleagues Larry Grenadier (Bass) and drummer Jorge Rossy. They have released a series of critically acclaimed and, in jazz terms, commercially successful albums. However, Rossy, an accomplished pianist in his own right, has recently left the band to concentrate on his own keyboard playing.
For this latest album, and on the forthcoming tour, the drum stool is filled by Jeff Ballard who has already established a big reputation as drummer for the high profile keyboard man Chick Corea.
Mehldau’s chosen method of working is to emphasise that the trio are equal partners and to incorporate a high level of group interaction. Rather than concentrating on the Great American Songbook he chooses more contemporary and “pop” orientated material as the source of the groups improvisations. In this sense the choice of material for this session makes it a typical Mehldau album.
However, Ballard is more energetic than his predecessor and this greater sense of urgency pushes the material to new heights. The drummer quickly imposes himself on the churning energy of Radiohead’s “Knives Out”, the album’s opener. He is particularly effective on other high tempo tunes such as the Mehldau original “Artis”.
Mehldau’s classical training is apparent in his lightness of touch and command of structure, as evidenced in a remarkable solo variation of Lennon & McCartney’s “Martha My Dear”. Another tune by the same composers “She’s Leaving Home” is given a thoughtful ballad style by the trio.
Grenadier’s playing is excellent throughout, but he shines on the title track written by the late, great Nick Drake. Drake is something of a favourite for Mehldau who has successfully covered “River Man” previously. And, of the other outside material there is an amazing transformation by the trio of Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”.
The standard of playing on a range of eclectic material is outstanding throughout and it should be fascinating to see these musicians on tour.blog comments powered by Disqus