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Tuesday March 13, 2012


New Albums From VCMG, Brad Mehldau Trio and Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Colective
By: Jon Pareles

Brad Mehldau has often seemed like the ultimate introspective jazz musician, a pianist and composer whose ideas tend to spring from within. ‘Ode,’ his fine new album, ostensibly draws inspiration from sources beyond himself: former collaborators, like the saxophonist Michael Brecker; members of his immediate family, specifically his wife and young son; and indelible pop-culture figures from childhood, like Aquaman. If that doesn’t sound like too far a departure from interiority, give the man credit for trying.

‘Ode,’ which consists entirely of original material, is the first studio album featuring Mr. Mehldau’s current trio, with the bassist Larry Grenadier and the drummer Jeff Ballard, since ‘Day Is Done,’ the 2005 release that announced the group’s initiation.

Since then there have been marquee collaborations and fertile digressions, including ‘Highway Rider,’ a sprawling, stylistically restless suite with the trio nestled warmly at its core. In comparison ‘Ode’ feels modest and unburdened, delivering the most comfortably centered work of Mr. Mehldau’s recent career.

That shouldn’t be taken as faint praise. This trio has developed its own language and a sound that’s instantly recognizable despite a growing field of emulators.

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