Brad Mehldau: River Man (trio version, 2000)
Brad Mehldau (piano)
Progression: Art of the Trio, Volume 5 (Warner Bros. 9 48005-2)
Composed by Nick Drake.
Recorded: New York, September 2000
Rating: 99/100 (learn more)
Brad Mehldau has made no secret of his affinity for the singer-songwriter Nick Drake and of his tune “River Man” in particular. The version Mehldau’s trio recorded at the Village Vanguard during a three-night stand in 2000 can make one’s hair stand on end. Drake’s chord progression makes the change from minor to major (to turn a phrase on its head), allowing for an unexpected release of tension in the song’s chorus. Larry Grenadier’s bass and Mehldau’s left hand stay fairly true to what Drake composed as the soloing gets under way, but Mehldau’s right hand breaks free of its tether. Seven minutes into the piece, you realize no one is hanging onto the melody any longer but still you feel it’s there. Pay attention; this is a remarkable piece of work. Mehldau’s trio has synthesized the lessons of its forebears – specifically those of Messrs. Evans and Jarrett – and finds its own voice in doing so, as this performance evinces.
Reviewer: Steve Greenlee
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