Brad Mehldau Trio ‘Ode’ (Nonesuch) 4/5

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that this is the first studio outing by the trio since the ‘Day is done’ back in 2005 and long-time fans will not this time be able to engage in the usual banter of which recent pop tune has been covered since this is an all original selection of compositions. That being said, the trio are in fine form, sounding as fresh as they did some seven years ago and the new pieces are of a consistently high standard. No more so than the deeply lyrical ‘26’ which is a deeply melodic piece on which Mehldau enters into an extended crescendo of notes with drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier in close pursuit. On the opener, ‘M.B’ the influence of Keith Jarrett can be heard and this number is a tribute to the late saxophonist Michael Brecker while the title track possesses an organic earthiness with Mehldau offering a delicate solo and there is moreover fine interplay between pianist and bassist. Blues inflections surface on the excellent ‘Kurt vibe’ while there is an unusual off-beat quirkiness to the ballad, ‘G.H’, another tribute, but this time to former Beatle George Harrison. Above all what really impresses with this trio is the apparent simplicity of the themes performed, both individually and collectively, and on ‘Twiggy’ one cannot but marvel at the constantly inventive percussion playing of Ballard in particular. Quite simply a piano trio performance of Champions League quality.

Tim Stenhouse