Mehldau is one of the most interesting younger jazz pianists performing today. He has played in a trio configuration since the early 1990s, working with the same bassist as on this new release. He has also performed and recorded entirely solo and involved himself outside the strict jazz idiom – playing with Willie Nelson and writing an original soundtrack score for the French film My Wife Is An Actress, as just two examples. He even has a recent commission from Carnegie Hall to compose and perform songs for soprano and piano featuring classical artist Renée Fleming.
The feeling on most of these ten tracks is often almost that of a solo piano – his rhythm section offers a subtle support while allowing the keyboard to dominate. Mehldau is a terrific improviser but he also has a fine feeling for the formal structures of the music, and this holds things together even when the improvisations become fairly fairly out. Only two of the tracks are his original compositions, two are Lennon/McCartney tunes and Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover gets an extended treatment. Rather surprising to find Alfie as one of the tunes, but Mehldau’s presentation gives this song more depth and sensitivity than I had thought it possessed. My favorite track on the disc was the even more extended version of the Beatle’s She’s Leaving Home, which becomes a sort of classical fantasia of great sadness.
Nonesuch seems to be following the ECM note booklet style of having no notes whatever on the music – just photos and a listing of the tracks. Sonics are natural and the piano seems normal-sized; it’s also satisfying to not having the drums overpower the piano as occurs on so many discs.
Tracks: Knives Out; Alfie; Martha My Dear, Day Is Done, Artis, Turtle Town, She’s Leaving Home, Granada, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, No Moon at All.
– John Henry