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"Ode", AAJ Review

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Monday April 30, 2012

allaboutjazz.com

By:Doug Collette

he very first notes of the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Ode sound rich, lyrical and full of energy. This may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the pianist’s work, but loyal followers of Mehldau know he brings an unusual intensity to his work, particularly his solo projects and the collaborations with his trio (currently bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard). This, the first studio trio recording since Day Is Done (Nonesuch, 2005), is no exception.

Thus, a homage to the late saxophonist Michael Brecker, “M.B.,” might serve as a dramatic conclusion to another artist’s album, but here opens a non-stop stream of invention. Multiple eclectic threads appear in Mehldau’s playing: classical, ragtime, pop and blues are only the most obvious components of a personal style in which the pianist not only executes the structure, but also communicates the emotional quotient intrinsic to each genre as well.

In a restatement of the main melodic motif of “26,” the threesome take some relative respite during the otherwise breathless performance, while “Dream Sketch” lives up to its evocative title: piano, bass and drums subtly tradeoff rhythm amid melodic duties during the course of the track. The individual virtuosity and collective camaraderie of Mehldau, Grenadier and Ballard is a wonder to hear because it is so rare and so deeply ingrained in their relationship.

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