Where Do You Start, the new CD from The Brad Mehldau Trio on the Nonesuch label, is the companion disc to his spring of 2012 critically acclaimed release, Ode. His latest offering, Where Do You Start features interpretations of eleven tunes by the trio, all are from various composers with one Mehldau original (which is really a vamped extension of “Samba e Amor” for the band to “Jam” on. The set is an exploratory journey into the modern art of the piano led trio that will not disappoint and is full of musicality and surprises. Joining Mehldau are his longtime cohorts bassist, Larry Grenadier and drummer, Jeff Ballard. The trio has developed a unique language over the years that allow them to build each selection in an organic and meaningful manner with Mehldau’s solos being the art of a master storyteller.
Alice In Chains’ “Got Me Wrong” starts the CD of with a great 7/4 feel that is developed by Mehldau’s usual attention to detail in building motifs and phrases. The trio’s interaction is telepathic and the groove is the center spring board for all conversations. The pianist in known for his crafty renditions of material from other artists and genres and Where Do You Start is no exception. The CD includes cuts by such eclectic non-jazz artists as: Sufjan Stevens, Chico Buarque, Elvis Costello, Cat O'Riordan, Nick Drake and Jimi Hendrix.
Standard fans will be happy to hear that the trio also explores the possibilities of some choice jazz standards with Clifford Brown's "Brownie Speaks" and Sonny Rollins' "Airegin." The cut, “Airegin” begins with Mehldau setting the song up with a nice vamp, while Ballard and Grenadier quickly joining in to start the conversation flowing. The melody is stated clearly with a few harmonic subs and the standard hits, followed by a clear and melodic solo from Grenadier consisting of mostly quarter notes with well-placed fills. Ballard’s drumming is conversational as usual; grooving and swinging all at once, but never leaving the pulse to be pondered. The heat is turned up with Mehldau’s solo. Again, all the usual suspects are present; motivic development, polyrhythms between the two hands, creative voicings (I especially liked the use of 2nds) long flowing lines and above all, a clear storyline. Ballard’s snare work takes us to the final statement of the melody with the usual ending.
Ultimately, Where Do You Start is an intimate, rich, and investigative collection of tunes that have a nice balance of styles, feels, textures and tempos. The release, certainly another documentation of the long standing catalogue of trio outings from the pianist, will certainly appeal to longtime fans of Mehldau's thoughtful jazz style. The music is representative of our collective ears in society today and finds influences form Mehldau’s collaborations with genre-crossing musicians of other modern music, with composer/pianist Kevin Hays and composer/arranger Patrick Zimmerli. Highly recommended!
Tracks: Got Me Wrong (Jerry Cantrell)5:24, Holland (Sufjan Stevens)8:46, Brownie Speaks (Clifford Brown)8:13, Baby Plays Around (Elvis Costello & Cait O’Riordan)10:07, Airegin (Sonny Rollins)6:23, Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)6:24, Samba e Amor (Chico Buarque)9:02, Jam (Brad Mehldau)5:26, Time Has Told Me (Nick Drake)8:30, Aquelas Coisas Todas (Toninho Horta)6:01
Where Do You Start? (Johnny Mandel, Marilyn Bergman & Alan Bergman)4:06
MUSICIANS: Brad Mehldau, piano - Larry Grenadier, bass
Jeff Ballard, drums
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