REVIEW: Art of the Trio

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Friday December 16, 2011


Brad Meldhau: The Art of the Trio Recordings 1996-2001 ‘” review
By: John Fordham

When a classically trained young piano improviser called Brad Mehldau emerged in the mid-1990s, he quickly established a patient, subtle and richly contrapuntal approach that took jazz piano-trio improvisation to a new level. Warner Brothers then sensibly left this partnership with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy alone to spin its own low-key, all-acoustic, lengthily sustained postbop stories over five Art of the Trio albums in as many years. This set boxes them all, adds a disc of unreleased material, and features a perceptive essay on the music from the Bad Plus’s Ethan Iverson. Mehldau’s harmonic audacity and the group’s seamless time-shifting skills are clear from Volume One, but it’s a debut that looks back as well as forward. By Volume Two (live at the Village Vanguard) the group has developed an almost telepathic intuitiveness that makes the underlying structures seem almost incidental; the version of John Coltrane’s uptempo Countdown here is mind-boggling. Later in the series, Mehldau begins to offer the deconstructions of Radiohead and Nick Drake that brought him a wider audience. Those who fidget at Mehldau’s meticulous, meditative odysseys will tear their hair out at the thought of seven hours of them, but the trio created a private world for their listeners to get lost in, and this is the definitive representation of it.

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