Brad Mehldau

Brad Mehldau

Art of the Trio 4: Back at the Vanguard

Warner Brothers

Brad Mehldau devotes a substantial amount of his liner notes to refuting all claims that his piano trio is to be compared to the Bill Evans Trio. Certainly, the two groups’ sounds differ greatly, although what made the Evans Trio so remarkable was the acute tightness and awareness that its members had achieved with each other. In such subtle ways, the Evans Trio could swerve and slide through their jazz, the rhythm section changing to fit the piano with a note’s notice. The band was so together that they were often considered one unit instead of three separate musicians. It is this brilliance exhibited by the magnanimous musicianship of the Evans Trio that warrants comparisons with Mehldau’s trio. For undeniably, his trio is almost just as wonderfully cohesive.

Art of the Trio 4 does a beautiful job, the piano weaving its way through the songs in a melodic and technically intriguing manner while drummer Jorge Rossy plays as if he were lost between free jazz and be-bop, avoiding the out-done repetition that so often comes with drumming. Mehldau’s style is almost that of a classical Thelonious Monk; he accents keys that border sounding out of place, yet he moves across the piano with such ease that it sounds all too natural. Bassist Larry Grenadier puts in a brilliant performance as well, proving himself a melodic player as much as a rhythm machine, working perfectly to accent Mehldau’s keys and adds a few well-executed solos along the way.

The album includes three live tracks of Mehldau’s originals, all which begin quiet and calm — usually with a solo introduction on the piano — and eventually build to a riveting improvisational piece of jazz beauty. Also on the album is a wonderfully smooth and flowing rendition of Miles Davis’s “Solar” and an interesting version of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” that sounds so natural as a jazz song that it almost makes the original feel like the odd man out. Brad Mehldau is a shining example that jazz is still alive in creation today, and his trio is, without a doubt, worthy of the title he gives them: art.

Warner Brothers Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019-6908

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