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Posts Tagged ‘Brad Mehldau’

Recent albums, Mehldau and Royston

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More new releases recently including today’s fare: electric new Brad Mehldau and drummer Rudy Royston’s long-time-coming debut as leader. In the near future, look out for reviews of a new John Zorn album with the guitar driven band Abraxas and a more straight ahead, sax heavy release from Seamus Blake and Chris Cheek. It’s hard to imagine a set of more dissimilar albums; in instrumentation, in feel and in background they are all very different. Yet I think taken together they are a good indication of the state of the music, each showcasing high quality musicianship in its own unique way.

I first heard about master pianist Brad Mehldau’s new project months ago. A duo with drummer-percussionist Mark Guiliana wherein Brad largely eschews piano in favor of Rhodes and a variety of synthesizer set ups. The more traditionalist among you may already have been put off the album from this description, but to me this sounded absolutely fascinating. Brad is such a strong technician and usually approaches new projects with a such a complete vision for the final product that no matter how different, the results always seem to work. I went in to my first listen of his album Highway Rider, which at first I viewed as one of those jazz with strings gimmicks, expecting to hate it. Despite my best efforts, by the end of the album it had become one of my all time favorites, on the strength of beautiful long form compositions, well crafted orchestrations and fabulous playing from everyone involved. While I certainly hope he doesn’t abandon the tried and true trio, I see a new format like the one he has with Guiliana as a great opportunity.

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(Something Else): Brad Mehldau at the Vanguard

Last night we saw the Brad Mehldau trio, with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, at the Village Vanguard. After a smoking rendition of the classic jazz standard ‘Alone Together’ in the second set, Brad paused to introduce the first four songs in the set. He introduced the next song they were going to play saying, “And now we’re going to play… something else.” That something else turned out to be a take on a Soundgarden song and serves as a useful metaphor for the sound and style of the Brad Mehldau trio: ‘something else’ runs through everything they play. Brad doesn’t shy away from any interesting influence or bit of musical language. He draws from everything, perfectly content to mix the most classic jazz phrasing with modernist classical influences on a take of a rock song. Throw in his proclivity for strange time signatures and you have a truly unique experience. Full set list and evaluation after the break. Read more…

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