Brad Mehldau Trio – Live
Ruby’s Rub (Mehldau)
O Que Sera (Buarque)
B-Flat Waltz (Mehldau)
Black Hole Sun (Cornell)
The Very Thought of You (Noble)
Buddha Realm (Mehldau)
Fit Cat (Mehldau)
Secret Beach (Mehldau)
More Than You Know (Eliscu/Rose/Youmans)
This is the second release with Mehldau’s newer trio line up of himself, Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums), which has also recorded with Pat Metheny on the Metheny Mehldau and Quartet albums.
The first disc starts off proper with the trios interpretation of the Oasis tune Wonderwall. From the start with the oddly timed bass intro and the use of polyrhythms to make the sure the bass riff starts in a new place every time round gives this reading of the tune a very different feel. The melody is hardly touched and remains the same eminently singable tune, but the reharmonisation brings something else out in it that is unlikely to be found else where.
The second tune is one of the band leader’s own, and swings straight from the gate which soon becomes stop start both in terms of dynamics and the music being played. This sparseness from the piano opens up the space for the drums and bass to really come into their own and show prime example of what a trio should be like.
The trio then move onto a straight tune that moves from samba to bossa to the funk and then onto hints of modalism whilst never forgetting the melodic element of the song, with some fantastic hand over hand soloing to be heard. The bass and drums work together again complementing the solo to perfection, busying their own lines when the piano dies away andd keeping the solid beat needed in this type of piece even when Mehldau goes off on some abstract run seemingly pulled out of nowhere in terms of both the rhythmical ideas and note choices, while somehow seeming never to go overboard.
Next is another Mehldau tune, which is exactly what it says in the title, a waltz in Bb. Again the trio shows off the well oiled machine that is again with the stop start nature of its playing showing a seemingly linked consciousness, everyone knows when they’re going to stop and start even though the choices often seem rather arbitrary on first listen. Probably one of the least adventurous tracks on the album, although there’s always the rhythmical abstractions found on nearly everything Mehldau does.
Next comes the focus of the first disc, a 23 minute version of Soundgarden’s track, Black Hole Sun. The song undergoes a complete reharmonisation with the melody left as the only recognisable part of the tune although it becomes a totally different tune in the hands of the trio. The melody is shared between the piano and bass with the different timbres working excellent to add something different to the tune. This then leads into the only lengthy bass solo of the entire set which while remaining independent of the melody is always reminiscent of it. After the bass solo there’s a brief interlude with the melody before the trio hits probably some of the freest music they’ve done, with everybody’s seemingly random yet highly calculated interjections into the musical conversation.
The first disc ends with a lithe ballad that highlights how subtle the trio can be. They breathe life into it and the melody comes to life, with the performance making the tune as emotive as the best vocalists could make it.
The second disc starts with a trio of Mehldau tunes, the first being Buddha Realm, an example of the rhythmic interplay that the trio does best. Mehldau works out one of his knottier melodies, with the Ballard double- and triple-timing while keeping a steady beat on the ride. Grenadier provides the middle ground and keeps the tune very much rooted to its origins, providing the link between the two virtuosic soloists. Similar can be said about the next two tunes (yes I am running out of ideas ).
The album ends with a classic rendition of Coltrane’s tune Countdown. It starts with a stream of consciousness solo involving all the two handed freedom Mehldau is known for which then morphs into the easily recognisable tune.
A few negative points: the panning seems to be overly heavy in some cases, the piano comes out too much from one side and the abss too much out the other. Also in a few places it seems too abstract and free and could do with being reigned in, in a few places.
The whole album is excellent and in the words of a review I read of the album: “what [Mehldau] does best, [is that he] reimagines what a jazz trio is supposed to do by using its own language”
I'll have to check this out if only for the 23 minute Soundgarden cover. Great review!
wow this sounds quite insane - I haven't heard much of Brad Mehldau, apart from the album that he recorded with Pat Metheny and some of his stuff with Josh Redman. This looks like something that should be pretty heavy
Cheers for doing this. Don't have the album but do enjoy a bit of Mehldau, the covers are always well worth a listen.
Mehldau is an absolute freak!
His every note is grace with pure genius.
His every note is grace with pure genius.
Brad Meldau is an amazing pianist. This release is excellent.