Brad Mehlday Trio's brand-new album, Blues and Ballads is now available on Nonesuch and it's already receiving acclaim. Following are some early reviews:
Stellar jazz pianist Mehldau again proves that three is the magic number […] Resurrecting the trio that has consistently advanced the jazz lexicon in the course of the past 20 years. A spellbinding set whose salient features are subtlety and understatement. Sublime stuff. – Mojo * * * *
MAY 27, 2016
Jazz: The Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues and Ballads * * * * *
What, no Radiohead? Brad Mehldau is adept at bending almost any music to the will of the jazz tradition, whether it’s alternative rock or, as heard at the Wigmore Hall last December, establishment baroque. Yet this album has his most traditional song selection yet: four jazz standards, a Beatles ballad and just two contemporary songs, both of which are pretty much Tin Pan Alley pastiches.
The American pianist plays these standards satisfyingly straight before dragging them into surprising, yet logical, emotional territories. So I Concentrate on You starts out as the suave samba we expect but builds into a full-bodied frenzy. The supper-club sophistication of These Foolish Things segues into an unaccompanied solo that, while never straying far from the tune, turns it into unpicked embroidery.
The album’s other surprise lies in the first half of its title. We are used to Mehldau’s self-absorbed, Keith Jarrett-like ballad-playing, but the blues? Yet this most cerebral of swingers does get fairly down and dirty on this sublimely satisfying album, even if he never quite loses his poise. His rawness on Since I Fell For You is a revelation while on Charlie Parker’s Cheryl he is Monkish and meaty.
There is blues of a more noirish shade on My Valentine, a song Paul McCartney wrote for his own recent standards album. Here the tone oscillates intriguingly between the brooding and the bucolic. Mehldau steals the riff from Stolen Moments for the theme, then after a gritty bass solo from Larry Grenadier, plays an uplifting cadenza. The drummer Jeff Ballard’s shuffling brushes tie it together.
McCartney the composer is also behind the album’s other highlight, an exhilarating version of And I Love Her. The original’s famous four-note guitar hook, often jettisoned in jazz versions, here becomes a recurring leitmotiv, initially as a sullen scene-setter, finally in ringing block chords as Mehldau’s solo reaches a crescendo. Yet another rhapsodic rollercoaster from this master of romantic complexity. (Nonesuch) Chris Pearson