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Brad Mehldau and trio bring a reverent hush to World Café Live

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Monday December 15, 2014

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

Brad Mehldau and trio bring a reverent hush to World Café Live
By: Shaun Brady

World Café Live isn’t an inherently quiet space. Even when conversations at the bar are at a minimum, the clinking of glasses and silverware and the ordering of drinks tend to create a background din for lower-volume performances.

But the packed crowd seemed to hold its collective breath from the moment the Brad Mehldau Trio took the stage on Friday night, maintaining a near-complete silence for the entire 100-minute performance. The pianist and his triomates – bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard – have inspired just that sort of hushed reverence for the decade it’s been together (twice that, if you include the equally-lauded tenure of former drummer Jorge Rossy). As usual for one of the most intelligent groups in modern jazz, the audience was rewarded with a set of stunning lyricism and profound communication.

Mehldau didn’t speak for nearly an hour into the show, despite dashing backstage immediately after entering to retrieve a forgotten microphone. Instead, he merely gave a brief nod to acknowledge the crowd and immediately eased into the hypnotic melody of the aptly-named “Spiral.” Like several of the pieces that night, the tune gradually unfurled. Mehldau began his solo by toying with tiny fragments of melodic ideas, which he slowly untangled and elaborated into longer, more florid inventions.

If Mehldau’s own default mode is the cerebral and introspective, his bandmates balance those tendencies by drawing him out into more expansive emotional colors. Ballard, also one-third of the trio FLY with Grenadier and saxophonist Mark Turner, is masterful at building momentum through subtly evolving rhythms, finding inspired ways to tether the music to time without hobbling its freedom to wander.

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