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Brad Mehldau Trio: Seymour Reads the Constitution! (Nonesuch)

Review of latest album from pianist Mehldau and his trio of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard

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Cover of Brad Mehldau Trio album Seymour Reads the Constitution! on Nonesuch
Cover of Brad Mehldau Trio album Seymour Reads the Constitution! on Nonesuch

You can’t help but marvel at Brad Mehldau’s ability to think in two speeds at the same time. While his left hand frequently holds down an assortment of tricky odd-metered riffs (which he demonstrates a particular fondness for on “Spiral” and “Ten Tune,” two of the three original compositions here), his right hand counters with single-note lines that are clearly rooted in a different time signature and tempo. When engaged in such pianistic tightrope-walking, it helps to have a deeply rooted rhythm section; longtime compadres Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums) provide that, as usual. But it helps even more that Mehldau’s dazzling technique is always backed by elegant melodic logic.

This album’s rapid-fire take on “Almost Like Being in Love” is as good a demonstration of that logic as any. Taking brief snippets from Frederick Loewe’s main theme, Mehldau first lets them dance in seemingly random fashion across octaves, playing light against the beat established by Grenadier and Ballard. Then he gradually strings those fragmented thoughts together, making them coherent, all the while picking up his pace to a point that at times seems superhuman.

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