Brad Mehldau Trio Brings "Transfixing" Show to California (Mercury News) with "Transformative" New Album (Philadelphia Inquirer)
The Brad Mehldau Trio—featuring Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums—landed in California this week for a number of shows, starting with a sold-out show in San Diego, then headed north. The group, whose latest album, Ode, was released on Nonesuch Records this past March, kicked things off the string of Bay Area shows with a performance at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz last night, followed by a set at the Napa Valley Opera House tonight. This weekend, the Trio has a trio of shows at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Forum, Friday through Sunday, as part of the SFJAZZ Spring Season, before heading south to Los Angeles to conclude their California run at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Monday. For all the details, go to nonesuch.com/on-tour.
The San Jose Mercury News describes last night's concert as "a lesson in jazz mastery," with music critic Richard Scheinin calling it "a transfixing hour of music," with the band "never losing the melody, the pulse, the transfixing feeling." All of that from beginning—"Hey Joe," the set's opening song, in which Mehldau showed himself to be "one funky genius"—to the encore, Johnny Mandel's "Where Do You Start?" That last poses "a good question," Scheinen concludes: "how do you start to describe what the trio did with this ballad? It was total exquisiteness, pondering those silent depths." Read the complete concert review at mercurynews.com.
San Francisco Weekly's Dave Pehling, previewing this weekend's shows at the YBCA, says: "It takes a certain amount of cojones for a group to issue a series of albums entitled The Art of the Trio, but there's little question that the Brad Mehldau Trio has injected new life into the often staid piano threesome format." The San Francisco Examiner, in its preview of the upcoming shows, says "Mehldau turn ivory into gold." For a musician "known for his improvisatory genius," writes Jason Victor Serinus in the Examiner, "what’s most fascinating about Mehldau’s style is his ability to transition from wildly improvisational jazz licks that have impossibly demanding rhythmic variations to styles far more classical in structure."
After their weekend in San Francisco, the Brad Mehldau Trio heads down to Los Angeles to conclude their California run at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Monday. "At this point in his career, is it too soon to credit the visionary pianist-composer with becoming the most influential jazz artist of the past two decades?" wonders LA Weekly's Gary Fukushima in recommending the show. Even with all those he has influence, "there's no improving on the original, and Mehldau's new album, Ode, presents an artist firmly in flux to maturation—he found his voice long ago but is becoming ever more comfortable with it." Fukushima exhorts his readers: "Go, witness a sage climbing toward a lofty place in jazz history."
From its very first notes, the sound of Ode is "rich, lyrical and full of energy," says All About Jazz contributor Doug Collette. The album is "a non-stop stream of invention. Multiple eclectic threads appear in Mehldau's playing: classical, ragtime, pop and blues are only the most obvious components of a personal style in which the pianist not only executes the structure, but also communicates the emotional quotient intrinsic to each genre as well." Collette has praise for all three Trio members, saying: "The individual virtuosity and collective camaraderie of Mehldau, Grenadier and Ballard is a wonder to hear because it is so rare and so deeply ingrained in their relationship." Read the album review at allaboutjazz.com.
Also reviewing the album for All About Jazz, Ian Patterson concludes: "On Ode, Mehldau further refines the relationship between composed and improvised form, infusing improvisations with a melodic, pop-like simplicity. His continuing exploration of the art of the trio is one of the joys of the contemporary jazz panorama." That review is also available at allaboutjazz.com.
The Montreal Gazette's Juan Rodriguez, in his review of Ode, says Mehldau "has a sense of lyricism that often prompts lazy comparisons to the all-time lyricist Bill Evans. In many ways, he’s a more complete player, unafraid of taking on his own 'image' with a sense of compositional adventure. In this sense, Mehldau represents a changing of the guard that’s wholly original, a rarity in the continuum of jazz." Rodriguez concludes: "Piano trios sometimes get set in their ways: Mehldau is too intelligent to let that happen. This may well be his most interesting, absorbing album to date." Read the complete review at montrealgazette.com.
The Philadelphia Inquirer gives the album three-and-a-half out of four stars. "For proof that evolution exists, look no further than this transformative trio CD from pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Jeff Ballard," writes the Inquirer's Karl Stark. He writes of the all-original tunes on the album: "By now, they come off like sonic DNA; no one else could make these liquid beauties ... The set is melodic and kind of daring. It flows into some groove places and creates lots of little electric moments that the best trios make." Read the review at philly.com.
Blurt gives a nine out of ten to "the gorgeous Ode, perhaps the trio's finest work beyond the concert stage," calling it "some of the trio's most fiery interplay to date. A most welcome return." Read the review at blurt-online.com.
To pick up a copy of Ode, head to the Nonesuch Store, where the album is available on CD, with instant downloads of the album included at checkout; MP3: and FLAC lossless files.