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Brad Mehldau's Victory Lap

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Monday May 21, 2018

From PopMatters

‘Seymour Reads the Constitution!’ is Brad Mehldau’s 2018 Victory Lap
By: Chris Ingalls

Brad Mehldau excels in a variety of musical environments. He’s an accomplished solo pianist – both in classical and jazz genres – and his work as the member of a duo, trio or full band is justifiably praised. His “default” mode, however, is arguably the trio format. Accompanied by bass and drums, Mehldau positively soars, taking many lengthy, imaginative solos, and – perhaps more importantly – often forgoing the spotlight to allow the other two musicians to shine as well.

[…] Mixing original compositions with covers both expected and unexpected, Seymour Reads the Constitution! comes out swinging with the eight-minutes-and-change opener, “Spiral”, employing a thorny 5/4 time signature that lesser musicians would find themselves tripping over in an attempt to provide adequate improvisation. But Mehldau, along with drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier, have collaborated for many years and provide both a laser-like focus to the material as well as an almost telepathic sense of each other’s musical moves. And when things slow down on the lazy, relaxed title track, the shifting of gears isn’t the least bit jarring.

While known for his innovative covers of rock artists as diverse as Radiohead, the Beatles, Nick Drake and Stone Temple Pilots, Mehldau certainly knows his way around classics from the Great American Songbook, and when the trio takes a spin at Lerner & Loewe’s “Almost Like Being in Love”, the results are dazzling. The tempo is bright and swinging with Grenadier providing fiery bass runs, and Ballard’s expert solo fills hold everything together. Likewise, his cover of jazz great Elmo Hope’s “De-Dah” is given an energetic shuffle, with ample soloing from all three musicians over the nine-minute runtime.

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