Monday, April 14, 2008

Brad Mehldau?! Live from the Village Vanguard?! Only For Like, the Fourth Time

All snarkiness aside, though, this record is pretty damn good, at least the second best of the four (I like "Art of the Trio: Volume Four" the most out of Mehldau's hundred thousand live recordings with his trio). It has pretty much everything you would expect from a Mehldau album, a number of pop covers from well-worn 90s alternative rock sources (no Radiohead this time; "Wonderwall" and "Black Hole Sun" fit the bill though), some unexpected treatments of jazz standards ("The Very Thought of You," "Countdown"), and a handful of originals (my favorite this time around is "B-Flat Waltz"), all treated beautifully by himself, his bassist Larry Grenadier, and his Drummer Jeff Ballard.

Now, I know I shouldn't, and I hate it when critics do this when reviewing this particular record, but I'm going to bring up the 1000 pound elephant in the room: Jeff Ballard. For those of you who don't know, Jorge Rossi played drums in this trio for 10+ years, and left a couple years ago to hang out with his kid; On "Day is Done," Jeff Ballard, an extremely capable and energetic drummer, filled his shoes. The reason I hate it when critics bring this up is that everything that can be said about the difference between the two drummers was said when "Day is Done" was released; Jeff Ballard is more "energetic," he's "invigorating."

I'd call him "a tad less subtle than Jorge Rossi" (here's hoping they quote that in the press section of Ballard's website), but I don't necessarily understand what use that statement has, or whether that's a good thing or a bad thing: it's simple, Mehldau's trio just has a different aesthetic with Ballard. The drumming on "Black Hole Sun" during the middle section (You'll know what I mean) probably exemplifies this aesthetic more than anything else on the album; the music is much more free rhythmically, but yeah, its also a hell of a lot less subtle.

Suffice to say, Mehldau and Grenadier (and Ballard) all play brilliantly, even though the brushes aren't happenin' the way they were on, say, "Art of the Trio Volume 3" (full disclosure: that's my favorite Mehldau album... I know I know, I'm an evil purist). That said though, I'd recommend this album heavily; its more of the same from the trio that did "Day is Done," as if that's a bad thing.

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