The double-disc Live begins as it ends‚ with the pianist rightfully acknowledging his musical partners and graciously thanking the audience. Moments of humility thus bookend performances of startling intensity.
To say the stage is Mehldau's milieu is not to demean his studio work but to suggest that the passion and intricacy of his playing -- along with that of his gifted bandmates -- finds its fullest expression in the spontaneity of the moment. On tracks such as Coltrane's "Countdown‚" or any one of the handful of the pianist's originals here‚ the spark of inspiration that comes at a moment's notice -- not out of nowhere but rather arising from the sum total of the artist's experience playing alone and with other musicians --- ignites a series of interactions in which the trio sound like more than just three musicians.
This new live set continues in the tradition of Mehldau's "Art of the Trio" series that began near the outset of his career on Warner Bros. The entirety of the 2006 Village Vanguard run from which this double set is taken is available in digital downloads. On selections ranging from Oasis (!) to Soundgarden (!?)‚ the trio anticipates and resolves each others' thoughts with seemingly telepathic continuity. Above all though‚ like every great band across the spectrum of genres‚ the Brad Mehldau Trio cooks.
Both in solo and ensemble settings‚ Brad has covered The Beatles and Radiohead in the past‚ but in the respective renditions of "Black Hole Sun" or "Wonderwall‚" the compositions become almost wholly unrecognizable as Mehldau and co. dissect them. The music thus becomes something else altogether -- the band's very own -- and‚ in turn‚ jazz music at its most pure.