Brad Mehldau first gained national attention when he performed as the piano sideman for Joshua Redman. And now this prodigal emotional son of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans is leading his own trio, with the venerable Larry Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossi on drums.
"Songs" is the third and latest installment of his "The Art of The Trio" series, following the live album "Live At the Village Vanguard."
A first listen to Brad Mehldau revealed his strong classical influence, his improvisations equally aft in quoting Schoenberg and Beethoven as they are influenced by Charlie Parker's bebop. What we have here is an emotional descendant of Keith Jarrett's wailing, melancholic playing and Bill Evans' avant garde chordal schemes. His strength is immediately apparent in "Song-Song", the opening track of this album. In his young age, Brad Mehldau has shown rare maturity, avoiding unnecessary falling-down-the-stairs mindless single-note chores, and instead painting pastel colors using his chords. Some shining examples include "Unrequited" and "Convalescent".
His emotions are his greatest strength and biggest pitfall. While his fluency on the keyboard shines in some tunes, in other tunes he gets into a very dark, somber mood in need of a direction, like in "Young At Heart". He even played a Radiohead song, "Exit Music (For A Film)", with unquestionable jazz authority.
Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossi rounds up this album with great playing. Although in some instances, Brad Mehldau leads this trio into an unnecessarily dark melancholic mode.
Overall, I am very awestruck by this album, despite one or two disappointing moments.