Elan Mehler Trio ‘Being There, Here’ (Challenge Records International) 4/5

One of the year’s most interesting pianist discoveries, Boston born Elan Mehler has come a long way from travelling around the world and playing for a time in Paris, then settling in New York. It was that move that catapulted him to cult status at the Knitting Factory where he has been a stalwart of the Big Apple jazz scene since 2006. A chance encounter with DJ and jazz enthusiast Gilles Peterson, who witnessed Mehler in performance at a spa hotel in Switzerland, has led to the present album which was in fact recorded at the very same venue in a live trio setting and the reposing atmosphere and reverential respect for the music among the audience has clearly rubbed off on the musicians ,and the general sound is unlike any standard jazz club. The selection features some of the classic American songbook and beyond, plus some a contemporary Americana cover and one original piece. Overall there is a wonderful feeling of simplicity and economy of style about the trio with nothing ever rushed, and the empathy between leader Mehler, bassist Tod Hedrick and drummer Max Goldman is all too evident. Highlights include a lovely take on Gillian Welch’s and David Rawling’s ‘I dream a highway’ which is taken at a gentle pace, a blues-inflected interpretation of Sy Oliver’s ‘Yes indeed’, and a non-bossa version of Jobim’s ‘Insensatez’ with the theme emphasized discreetly and where the piece builds slowly and ever so subtly. For indications of Elan Mehler’s improving compositional talents, the lightness of touch and fine interplay on his own ‘Waltz Ferwenz’ is a very promising indicator indeed of much more to follow in the future.

Tim Stenhouse

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