Brad Mehldau Trio – Where Do You Start – Nonesuch Records 532029, 78:29 ****:
(Brad Mehldau – piano; Larry Grenadier – bass; Jeff Ballard – drums)
The French have a lovely word when describing a person or a style and that is “décontracté” (pronounced day-con-trac-tay). It could mean ‘free and easy’, ‘laidback’ or ‘chilled out’ and any one of these definitions could be attributed to The Brad Mehldau Trio with their latest recording Where Do You Start.
This iteration of the trio has established its bona fides some time ago as a thoughtful exponent of contemporary American music. This session, which is devoted mostly to covers, with the exception of one Mehldau original, comes from the same recording efforts that produced Ode which was released earlier this year. The covers are derived from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Jimi Hendricks, Chico Buarque and Johnny Mandel. The jazz offerings come from the pen of Clifford Brown for “Brownie Speaks” and Sonny Rollins for his iconic “Airegin”.
Brad Mehldau has never been short on technique and his trio always plays with delicate self-assurance. Starting out with “Got Me Wrong”, Mehldau delivers a sharply attentive opening line which lays down a marker that will carry through the remaining tunes of the sitting. As “Holland” takes shape, bassist Larry Grenadier demonstrates what a thoughtful and adaptable player his is. “Brownie Speaks” is the first of the two jazz compositions which builds grooves from the ground up and later “Airegin” the Sonny Rollins number is restlessly inventive, and taken a quick time signature. The lovely Latin number “Samba e Amor” is offered with impeccable taste by the band and demonstrates that Mehldau is always consistent with his probing instincts. Finally the title track “Where Do You Start?” gives the group a chance to show that they are sympathetic and enlightened partners.
This is a stylish and nimble effort delivered with imagination.
TrackList: Got Me Wrong; Holland; Brownie Speaks; Baby Plays Around; Airegin; Hey Joe; Samba e Amor; Jam; Time Has Told Me; Aquelas Coisas Todas; Where Do You Start?
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