Thursday, June 07, 2012

Music Notes -- Ode

The good news about the latest, long awaited offering from the Brad Mehldau Trio is that it contains the sort of beautiful and well-played tunes one might expect. The bad news (perhaps) is it contains the same sort of beautiful and well-played tunes one might expect.

This trio, which has not released a studio album since 2005 or a live album since 2008, does have a distintive sound, one I have loved for years. Mehldau is a champion of the right notes in the right places, particularly in the wild solos on this project. There is Jeff Ballard's masterful drumming, one moment frenetic, the next tastfully understated. Larry Grenadier does more than keep time and hold down the bottom end; his bass is like a sonic, elastic connection, keeping everything from getting out of hand, but stretching enough to keep it all interesting.

All of the songs on Ode are Mehldau originals. It opens with "M.B.," a nice, but not startling piece. It is followed by the title track. These two, "Twiggy," and "Aquaman" sound, for the most part, like material I've heard before. I like them, but they aren't all that fresh. "26" is a bit like these, but is saved by some interesting chord and time changes as well as a fiery solo. On tunes like "Dream Sketch," the group makes subtle magic. "Bee Blues" and "Stan the Man" are swinging bebop numbers that might surprise listeners.  "Kurt Vibe" is a toe-tapping, mid-tempo piece that gives each player plenty of room to solo.I'm not sure what "Wyatt's Eulogy for George Harrison" is about, but the title is appropriate. It sounds like a funky dirge played over a western. "Days of Dilbert Delaney" closes the disc with emotive, Beatlesque flair.

Ode is perhaps not a groundbreaking album. But the project does find Mehldau's trio in fine form, and still stronger than most combos.

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