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Brad MEHLDAU Trio – Day Is Done 2005

Posted in Brad MEHLDAU, JAZZ on November 16, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Brad MEHLDAU Trio – Day Is Done 2005

Jazz

Brad Mehldau is one of jazz’s most talented and prolific artists. Through the course of his recording career, he has proved himself open to innovation (Largo) and reverential of tradition (the Art of the Trio series). He is a deeply thoughtful presence (see his liner notes to Elegiac Cycle), but also displays a healthy sense of humor (the inside photos to Places). All those characteristics, nee virtues, are on display on Day is Done.

At the time of the release of the last Mehldau trio album, Anything Goes, word has it two entire albums’ worth of material were recorded in a single day, but this new disc is not the companion piece to the previous release. Jeff Ballard, most recently part of Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band, has assumed the drummer’s seat to partner with bassist extraordinaire Larry Grenadier.

Perhaps that’s why the first few moments of the new recording consist of the warm inviting sound of a Grenadier bass figure that sets the stage for the entrance of Ballard. It’s only when these two lock in—and lock in they do, as if having played as a team for some time—that Mehldau himself makes an appearance for Radiohead’s “Knives Out” proper, the end result of which is to not just display the spacious clarity of the Mehldau produced sound of the new disc, but the new internal dynamics of the trio.

Ballard’s filigreed style of percussion changes the relationship between the three musicians in Mehldau’s group. The music is more fluid, Grenadier plays more simply, finding places for himself within the detail of the other’s playing (of which there is plenty). Brad Mehldau himself has found a kindred spirit in drummer Ballard, as the two mirror each other intuitively as on this reading of “Alfie.”

This modern standard is nestled in a range of tunes that once again startles, even if you’re a long time Mehldau follower, used to his eclectic tastes. The Beatles appear here twice, once in “She’s Leaving Home,” where Mehldau himself embroiders the slightly saccharine melody to bring out its real sentiment and again in “Martha My Dear,” which throughout is barely but beautifully recognizable as McCartney’s piano-written paean to his sheepdog. On one track after another, the Brad Mehldau Trio slip indiscernibly in and out of the tune itself, improvising in a rich flow of ideas, prompted by, but not obviously tied to, the chord progressions of the song itself, such as Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

The high-bouncing likes of the latter tune make for a delicious contrast to the soft intimations of the previous rack “Granada.” So it is that variety abounds on Day Is Done even within the deliberately limited setting of the three-piece. Changes in both tempo and arrangement abound throughout, most clearly on display within the nine-minutes plus of the title title song, a composition by English folk genius Nick Drake, who’s been a constant source of inspiration for Mehldau, with a group and also when he plays solo (see his first Nonesuch release, Live in Tokyo).

It’s the mark of the courageous musician to make changes deliberately before changes become necessary, thrust upon by circumstance. Notwithstanding his unconventional approach to the selection of his material or the circumstances surrounding the personnel changes within the Brad Mehldau Trio, the result here is vibrant jazz, the whole of Day Is Done as intoxicating really as the sum of its parts.
By Doug Collette. AAJ.
**
. . . Is there a better (jazz) pianist alive?

No.

What makes him so great? He’s got the whole package. It starts with his complete assimilation of the entire spectrum of jazz piano from Fats Waller and Earl Hines to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. On this disc, he casually, even insouciantly, trots it out as needed. It continues with his rhythmic conception that encompasses the entire range of jazz pianisms, from swing to bop to free to world and beyond. What amazes about all this lightly worn virtuosity is that it never comes across as mere academico-historic prowess; there’s always a bright and glorious accessibility about this music. But we’re just scratching the surface with these observations. There are a lot of smart, knowledgeable keysman with similar talents.

What sets Mehldau apart is a serendipitous magic that has to do not only with the selection of entirely compatible bandmates, but an unknown, unquantifiable quality that also enables him to discover, reconfigure, and give fresh meaning to standards and pop gems even as he works in his own startling originals. Mehldau perhaps makes his greatest and most lasting musical impression as song-selector, -conceptualizer, and -executional architect/band leader. It’s not merely that he has chops to burn, although that is certainly the case; it’s that he finds unusual and serendipitous musical contexts to unfold and display his genius that other pianists fail to locate.

Proof? Just look at his two wildly, astonishingly original takes on Beatles tunes, “Martha My Dear” and “She’s Leaving Home.” First of all, I generally think the vast majority of jazz renditions of Beatles tunes suck. There’s usually either too much reverence or pointless reconfiguration that leads nowhere. Not here. “Martha My Dear,” taken as a solo (ad)venture, is scarcely recognizable, what with its reharmonization, obscured melody, and wild rhythmic workout, yet it brims and bursts and bubbles with the authentic heart of the original. “She’s Leaving Home,” on the other hand, although transformed into a valse triste, retains the wistful melancholy of the original, taking on an almost unbearable poignancy entirely appropriate to its thematic center and eventually working itself up into a legitimately bloozy lament weirdly contiguous with the original, but wholly unexpected and gloriously transformational.

Moreover, Mehldau’s range simple astounds. His take on Chris Cheek’s marvelous composition, “Granada,” conjures the entire history of Andalusia, Spaniards and Moors, even as it unfolds a striking beautiful and mysterious melodic sensibility. The Paul Simon classic, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” almost as unrecognizable as “Martha My Dear,” nevertheless snaps and crackles with a smart-mouthed jauntiness entirely apropos to the original, although displaying melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic sensibilities once again unexpected though absolutely apposite.

The addition of drummer Jeff Ballard to the trio, who has leant such thrilling percussive moves especially to numerous Jazz Composers Collective projects, notches the proceedings up several levels. As great as Jorge (Jordi) Rossy is, Ballard tops him. He’s got such a sure rhythmic sense, such percussive drive, that he constantly gooses the proceedings into new and unexpected territory.

Mehldau just goes from strength to strength. If you want to experience the absolute finest of the younger crop of jazz pianists, look no farther than this remarkable disc.
By Jan P. Dennis.
**
Brad Mehldau- Piano
Larry Grenadier- Bass
Jeff Ballard- Drums
**
01. Knives out (8:29)
02. Alfie (3:46)
03. Martha my dear (4:38)
04. Day is done (9:26)
05. Artis (6:21)
06. Turtle town (6:18)
07. She’s leaving home (9:07)
08. Granada (7:30)
09. 50 ways to leave your lover (8:32)
10. No Moon at all (5:49)
**

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