Brad Mehldau Trio Seymour Reads the Constitution!
For nearly every detour he takes—his previous two releases were a set of duets with mandolinist/ vocalist Chris Thile and a solo recording—jazz pianist Brad Mehldau always returns to his rhythm section: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. The trio is Mehldau’s rock, his home base, that place where he can always continue where he left off. When we last heard from the three musicians in 2016, they were offering up Blues and Ballads , a blend of songs by Lennon-McCartney, Cole Porter and others. This time, there are more new interpretations— Brian Wilson, another McCartney, Frederick Loewe, Sam Rivers—but three new originals as well, including the two opening tracks. “Spiral,” the first of those, showcases the Brad Mehldau Trio doing what it does best: setting up a melodic theme, exploring it in depth, pushing it around a bit and casting it aside, but never quite leaving it behind. At this point, after more than a decade together, the three are always in a shared pocket, locked in so tightly that there isn’t any leading or following involved—they just know where they want to go, and they get there effortlessly. They initially approach the classic Beach Boys tune “Friends” in a surprisingly straightforward manner, with Mehldau barely deviating from the familiar melody and the rhythm section keeping it casual; a mid-section lull gives Ballard an opportunity to add a little flash, but no one’s too interested in making a show of this one. They save that for “Beatrice,” the album-closing Rivers composition, wherein Mehldau transposes Rivers’ saxophone lines into piano as if they were always meant to be played that way.