Brad Mehldau Trio at the Village Vanguard 1/7/18 (by Kazemde George)

PERSONNEL: Brad Mehldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeff Ballard (drums)

SET LIST: Blues in C (Mehldau), Waltz in C Minor (Mehldau), And I Love Her (Lennon/McCartney), The Song is You (Kern), I’m Getting Sentimental Over You (Bassman)

HIGHLIGHTS:  “And I Love Her” was a crowd-pleaser. The song served to illustrate the strong connections between the diverse musical traditions drawn on from the trio. It’s a whole dictionary, but to give just a few B’s: The Beatles, Bach, Bill Evans, and Brazilian…

Brad Mehldau, Larry Grenadier, and Jeff Ballard delivered a dialed-in and relaxed performance of recognizable songs and a pair of originals. The show was not a dramatic spectacle or a subdued abstraction, but a casual and methodical musical conversation between well-spoken and considerate friends. Perhaps in the hands of lesser musicians, such a modest set of songs would leave the listener asking for more, but these longtime bandmates were constantly inventing and proposing new ideas.

The first song of the night was an up-tempo 12-bar blues with an erratic and propulsive melody. Right away, the trio set themselves apart in their ability to make each player sound like an individual while also contributing to the overall sound. During his piano solos, Mehldau would leave space for Grenadier to interject or redirect. However, the piano never sounded as if it was searching, and the bass never played out of turn. Ballard, true to form, was constantly creating, changing the feel and throwing new rhythmic ideas at the rest of the band.

The second original song began in a stark and abstract fashion. Once they filled in the harmony and subdivisions everything made more sense, and the piece grew into a steady, fast-paced waltz.

A charming cover of the Beatles’s “And I Love Her” shifted the tone of the concert. The song started as a Bolero reminiscent of the original recording. As Mehldau continued to extrapolate, Ballard and Grenadier reverted to their familiar interplay with a more funky straight-eighth feel.

“The Song is You” started off with a single solo-piano line, soon matched by another line in counterpoint before the band entered with swing in 7/4. Mehldau continued to develop his solo with two-part counterpoint lines which flawlessly bubbled through the harmony. Ballard’s drum solo was full of rhythmic super-impositions, often leaving behind the groove for extended periods to explore different recombinations of subdivisions and alternate feels.

A wholesome version of the ballad “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” ended with an extensive and contemplative solo piano coda.

by Kazemde George