The Art of the Trio, Vol. 4: Back at the Vanguardby Brad Mehldau
Appearing just three months after Brad Mehldau's elegant solo piano album Elegiac Cycle, Art of the Trio, Vol. 4: Back to the Vanguard provides a remarkable contrast to the refined, cerebral, hypnotic affair that was released before it. Not that the performances on Back to the Vanguard aren't hypnotic, since they're utterly captivating. The difference is that this live recording captures exactly how vital and impassioned Mehldau's playing is. Working with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy, he turns these songs -- including three originals, one Miles Davis number, two standards, and Radiohead's "Exit Music" -- inside out, finding the heart of the song, and exploring a bewildering array of variations of the themes and chords. This music surges forward, unhinged and forceful, complex but completely accessible. Mehldau spends much of his liner notes on the defensive, explaining how many jazz critics have misread his music. He has a point -- he has often been ghettoized as a jazz intellectual, but as this exceptional album proves, there is considerable emotion and feeling and plain excitement behind his music, even during the mesmerizing quiet sections.
- Release Date:
- Warner Bros Mod Afw
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Not being a jazz expert, I nonethless find it funny the attempts to categorize Brad Mehldau as a *new* Bill Evans. Nothing against Evans, of course, but he's obvious when compared to Mehldau, and his touch is not nearly as subtle; and Brad's swing has a whif of bossa nova to boot.
Think of a few of the great innovators of modern jazz piano...Bill Evans created a remarkable new way of performing jazz. Chick Corea adapted Evans' concepts, using them in his own new trio-style, as did the incredible Keith Jarrett after him. Evans, Corea, Jarrett, and now Mehldau. While it might be easy for a passive listener of Brad Mehldau's album to hear influences of the likes of Bill Evans, careful listeners will hear a completely new and powerfully profound musical statement, reflective of Bill Evans' virtuosity and genious, but presenting listeners with a beautiful, truly innovative musical and intellectual experience. Aside from the brilliant performance orchestrated by Brad Mehldau, Larry Grenadier, and Jorge Rossy, is an essay of Mehldau's, found in the liner notes, which gives the audience a satisfying-yet-ever-so-small insight regarding how in the world he managed to reach inside of himself to infuse within this album the non-stop vitality, energy, and economy that it has. Though not the overly-sensitive, artsy type, I cried when I heard this album, as a student, as a musician, as a human being with a respect for all things beautiful.