Brad Mehldau: Alfie




Brad Mehldau (piano)


Day is Done (Nonesuch 79910)

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

Composed by Burt Bacharach


Recorded: March 13, 2005


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

One of the curses of jazz pianists is that they are forced to share their repertoire with cocktail lounge tinklers and elevator Muzak maestros. Some jazz musicians are so dismayed by this state of affairs that they refuse to play many of the best-known standards -- especially those composed after 1960 when hip chord changes became an endangered species. Most of them would rather work through Czerny backwards or play Hanon with mittens on before tainting their fingers with Bacharach or the Beatles. But Brad Mehldau plunges bravely into the world of pop tunes, playing more Bacharach than Bird, more McCartney than Monk. But he puts these songs through an exemplary purification rite, stripping them of the vapid flourishes and empty gestures that your local bar piano man might employ. The end result is a pristine "Alfie," beautiful in its starkness, and without any excessive sentimentality. This, my friends, is harder than playing "Cherokee" in all twelve keys. Ballard's brushwork is sublime, and Grenadier's time as reliable as a Patek Phillipe watch.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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Related Links

Assessing Brad Mehldau at Mid-Career by Ted Gioia
The Dozens: Twelve Essential Brad Mehldau Performances by Ted Gioia
In Conversation with Brad Mehldau by Ted Panken

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