Brad Mehldau Trio Day is Done

When does an "inside” improviser like Brad Mehldau become appropriate to review in Destination Out? Here’s a checklist: 1. When his playing can transcend the chord changes and melodic clichés of the tunes he plays. Check. 2. When the architecture of his solos transform and engulf the structures of those tunes rather than being dictated by them. Check. 3. When his rhythmic freedom defies the well-worn patterns and breaks our preconceptions of what might happen in those songs. Check. Mehaldau creates interweaving lines of melody, harmony, and bass, each of which is made to speak at different dynamic levels. Razor-sharp pedalling technique creates subtle nuances in tone colour: diamond hard, woody, and foggy. His takes on Lennon/McCartney tunes are shatteringly insightful. "She’s Leaving Home” is achingly nostalgic and "Martha My Dear” uncoils in a tempest of swirling Bach-like counter-lines. His own tunes, "Artis” and "Turtle Town” are the backdrop for some scorching pianistics. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard (who replaces long-time stalwart Jorge Rossey) organically enfold and extend the pianist’s flights, egging him to take impulsive chances. Mehldau may not approach the boldness of Cecil Taylor’s uprooting of jazz piano’s traditions, but like Glenn Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s "Goldberg Variations,” he redefines our understanding of what is possible with what, in lesser hands, has become a safe and predictable format. Brad makes the jazz piano trio exciting, surprising and daring. (Nonesuch)