Review: Brad Mehldau at LJF 2012

Sam Braysher witnesses an "utter virtuoso", back in his familiar trio format and producing a rush of improvised counterpoint during one solo cadenza was "truly remarkable"

Brad MehldauReturning to the Barbican Hall for the first time since a 2010 visit with his orchestral Highway Rider project, pianist Brad Mehldau embraced the trio format for which he is best known. With long-standing bandmates Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard on double bass and drums respectively, the American pianist gave us his usual compelling mixture of romantic originals, interpretations of pop and rock songs and the odd jazz standard or bop tune.

Grenadier was a joy to hear throughout, whether taking a boppish solo on the Parker blues head Cheryl or playing arco on a classically influenced Mehldau composition, while Ballard's quietly frenetic grooves are clearly influenced by contemporary and electronic music as well as by the jazz tradition. It goes without saying that Brad himself is an utter virtuoso: a rush of improvised counterpoint during one solo cadenza was truly remarkable.

It came as something of a relief when the trio played a searing Countdown as its third and final number of an encore which also included a lovely rendition of Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years. After three or four consecutive medium-down tempo tunes rooted in less overtly jazz-based source material, the intensity, speed and indeed swing of the Coltrane composition, which Mehldau recorded on Art Of The Trio, Volume Two 14 years ago, made a refreshing end to an enjoyable set.

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