By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
As opposed to romantic. That's what Brad Mehldau is: the knight who restored sensitivity to its throne, which turned out to be a piano bench.
I didn't think there'd ever be another great interpreter of Golden Age standards, but here he is. He's just released his third trio album, on which he shows a heady modern compositional touch and even makes a swell Chopinian gush out of Radiohead's "Exit Music (For a Film)," but the standards are what stick. If you think such re-examinations are easy, take a lesson from Joshua Redman's current Timeless Tales, on which Mehldau, in the little front space he's allowed, wiggles his fingers deep into tunes like "Love for Sale" and (whoa) "The Times They Are A-Changin'," while Redman's sax skips over them like a flat rock and sinks.
But in the glowing elegance of Largo (why don't they book more jazz there?), everything was in balance. Mehldau wouldn't even sit down until a piano technician had spent an hour adjusting the keyboard, which in this pianist's case is fully justified. Curled over so his forehead almost brushed the mahogany, Mehldau sprayed out his thoughts with a classically light right hand while his left hovered like a hummingbird, sometimes for several measures at a time, waiting for the correct moment to alight. His approach has so much in it: Monkish spacing, ripping abandon, gentle abstraction, Bachian fugue, real sweetness, even a touch of calypso. Maybe most impressive technically was a segment where he emoted a strong melody with his left hand while tripping out rapid arpeggios with his right. But the best thing about Mehldau is his genuineness - it just doesn't feel like a show. Not to forget his trio mates: drummer Jorge Rossy could comb a butterfly's hair, and bassist Larry Grenadier could swing a milk truck.
The gentleman who sat to my left at the bar, a character actor of moderate stature, said Mehldau's efflorescent quality reminded him of Bill Evans, whom he'd seen many years ago in New York. I like Mehldau a lot better - you never feel his hands have taken leave of his brain. And I'm not saying that just because he's from L.A.