In listening to the five years of the Brad Mehldau Trio represented in this box set, one hears the unfolding of a new and significant part of modern jazz history, as the end of the 1990s opened the door on the explosive creative renaissance of the music in the 21st century. Nonesuch has compiled the five releases in the Art of the Trio series, as well as an additional disc of unreleased recordings from the same period (1997-2001), offering a serious reconsideration of what has already been accepted as a "next step" for the jazz piano trio's history.
The Brad Mehldau Trio, featuring Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, returns with Ode, an album of 11 previously unreleased songs composed by Mehldau. The record, which is the first from the trio since 2008’s Live Village Vanguard disc and the first studio trio recording since 2005’s Day Is Done, is out this week in the UK and this coming Tuesday in North America. Many of the songs on the new album were written as tributes, or “odes,” to real and fictional people, such as the late saxophonist Michael Brecker (“M.B.”), a character from the film Easy Rider (“Wyatt’s Eulogy for George Hanson”), and the guitarist Kurt Ronsenwinkel (“Kurt Vibe”).
Day is Done boasts a smartly selected range of original and borrowed material, from Tin Pan Alley jazz standard "No Moon At All," made famous by Nat King Cole, to "Knives Out" from Radiohead's Amnesiac. Day is Done also includes two of Mehldau's own pieces, "Artis" and "Turtle Town," plus a cover of contemporary tenor sax player Chris Cheek's "Granada," which Mehldau originally performed on Cheek's vine.
Brad Mehldau’s House On Hill represents the culmination of the pianist’s studio work with his original trio line-up of bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy. Mehldau specifically composed nine tracks with the particular strengths of his longtime band-mates in mind. House On Hill completes a significant chapter in Mehldau’s decade-plus career.
Brad Mehldau's warm, utterly enveloping effort, 2016's Blues and Ballads, finds the pianist leading his trio through a set of well-curated standards and covers. The album follows up his genre-bending 2014 collaboration with electronic musician Mark Guiliana, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, and smartly showcases his return to intimate acoustic jazz. Admittedly, the title, Blues and Ballads, is somewhat misleading, as Mehldau only tackles one actual blues with his jaunty, off-kilter take on Charlie Parker's "Cheryl." Otherwise, the blues of the title is implied more in the earthy lyricism of a handful of ballads.
Nonesuch releases the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Where Do You Start, a companion disc to this spring’s critically acclaimed Ode, on September 18, 2012. Whereas Ode featured 11 songs composed by Mehldau, Where Do You Start comprises the Trio’s interpretations of ten tunes by other composers, along with one Mehldau original. Ode was widely praised, with London’s Daily Telegraph, in a five-star review, saying that it “shows Mehldau’s inventive powers are as fresh as ever … and the interplay with Ballard and Grenadier is masterly.” The Brad Mehldau Trio is Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums.