Brad Mehldau Trio – Blues And Ballads (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 55:40 minutes | 963 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital booklet | © Nonesuch
Nonesuch Records releases the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Blues and Ballads, the trio’s first new release since 2012’s Where Do You Start, on June 3, 2016. The previous release received critical acclaim, with the Financial Times saying, “Mehldau never lets his peerless technique and meticulous timing interrupt the narrative flow of a well-told tale. Here, the pianist and his trio burrow deep into left-field pop and the American songbook, and give an adventurous sheen to modern jazz.” Blues and Ballads similarly comprises interpretations of songs by other composers, this time with the focus on blues and ballads implied by the album’s title. The Brad Mehldau Trio is Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums.
Brad Mehldau moved to New York City and first came to prominence as a member of current label mate Joshua Redman’s quartet in the 1990s before becoming a bandleader himself. His trio, which tours the world extensively, made eight acclaimed recordings for Warner Bros., including the five widely praised Art of the Trio albums with former drummer Jorge Rossy, which Nonesuch released as a boxed set in December 2011.
The pianist’s time with Nonesuch has been equally productive, beginning with the solo disc Live in Tokyo and including five trio records—Day Is Done, House on Hill, Live, Ode, and Where Do You Start—as well as a collaboration with soprano Renée Fleming, Love Sublime; a chamber ensemble album, Highway Rider; and two collaborations with label mate Pat Metheny, Metheny Mehldau and Quartet, the latter of which also includes Ballard and Grenadier. In 2011, Nonesuch released Mehldau’s live solo performance on Live in Marciac and his collaborations with genre-crossing musicians Kevin Hays and Patrick Zimmerli on Modern Music. The following year, Nonesuch released Ode, which went on to be nominated for a Grammy, and Where Do You Start. In 2013, Mehldau was featured as a performer and producer on Joshua Redman’s acclaimed Nonesuch release Walking Shadows. His solo on “Sleeping Giant,” on his and Mark Guiliana’s 2014 Nonesuch album Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, was nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo in the 2015 Grammy awards. Nonesuch released the 4-CD 10 Years Solo Live in November 2015; later that year, Mehldau received the Wigmore Medal, the first jazz musician ever to do so. Mehldau was also curator of an annual jazz series at Wigmore Hall from 2009 to 2011, and was the first-ever jazz artist to hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall, in its 2010-11 season. The Brad Mehldau Trio was named Best International Ensemble at the 2013 Echo Awards, the same year that Where Do You Start was chosen as Album of the Year by the Académie du Jazz.
Brad Mehldau’s warm, utterly enveloping effort, 2016’s Blues and Ballads, finds the pianist leading his trio through a set of well-curated standards and covers. The album follows up his genre-bending 2014 collaboration with electronic musician Mark Guiliana, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, and smartly showcases his return to intimate acoustic jazz. Admittedly, the title, Blues and Ballads, is somewhat misleading, as Mehldau only tackles one actual blues with his jaunty, off-kilter take on Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl.” Otherwise, the blues of the title is implied more in the earthy lyricism of a handful of ballads. An influential figure in the jazz world since the late ’90s, Mehldau has subtly transformed not only the way modern jazz is played, but also the repertoire from which musicians draw inspiration. He was one of the first jazz artists to rework modern alt-rock songs by the likes of Radiohead and Nirvana, imbuing them with a delicacy and harmonic nuance that both celebrated the original recordings and recontextualized them within the jazz canon. While the song choices on Blues and Ballads are by no means as adventurously maverick as that, they are well chosen and make for supple listening. Here, Mehldau and his longtime bandmates bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard dig into thoughtfully selected compositions like the Beatles’ “And I Love Her,” transfiguring the minor/major-key centers into something sweeping and operatic. Similarly, cuts like “I Concentrate on You” and “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” feel both well-considered and off the cuff, as if Mehldau and his trio simply decided to start playing during the afterglow of a jovial dinner party. Surprisingly, it’s Jon Brion, who produced Mehldau’s 2002 album Largo, who offers the pianist one of the album’s most poignant moments with his original ballad, “Little Person.” Based around a deftly simple melody, in Mehldau’s sympathetic hands the song is the musical equivalent of a child’s tears. While Blues and Ballads is by no means Mehldau’s most ambitious album, it’s nonetheless a work of expansive emotionality and deeply hued beauty. ~~AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
1 Since I Fell For You (Buddy Johnson) 10:55
2 I Concentrate on You (Cole Porter) 7:21
3 Little Person (Jon Brion) 3:53
4 Cheryl (Charlie Parker) 7:37
5 These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You) (Jack Strachey & Holt Marvell) 6:00
6 And I Love Her (John Lennon & Paul McCartney) 9:25
7 My Valentine (Paul McCartney) 10:13
Brad Mehldau, piano
Larry Grenadier, bass
Jeff Ballard, drums