Brad Mehldau: How Long Has This Been Going On
How Long Has This Been Going On
Brad Mehldau (piano)
Progression: Art of the Trio, volume 5 (Warner Bros. 48005)
Composed by George & Ira Gershwin.
Recorded: Live at the Village Vanguard, September 22-24, 2000
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
I have written elsewhere how Brad Mehldau has updated the piano trio repertoire, refreshing the musty museum which passes for the standard jazz playlist. But Mehldau has never renounced Gershwin and his Tin Pan Alley associates -- he has just given them some new company, letting them hang out with Radiohead, Nick Drake and Paul Simon. And when Mehldau plays the brothers George & Ira in the year 2000, they come dressed in new millennium garb. This performance opens at an ambling ballad pace and Mehldau is sparing in his piano work. We think, at least for a moment, that the pianist is taking it sweet and easy. Have we returned to the open spaces and straightforward melody-solos-melody framework of Mehldau's earlier trio work? Nope! At the five-minute mark, bass and drums lay out, and Mehldau seems to be entering a brief piano coda to wrap up the piece. In fact, we are only halfway through this magnificent performance, with the best yet to come. Mehldau now offers a brilliant chord study -- not really a reharmonization of Gershwin's song, but something even more daring. Mehldau builds a new composition with occasional snippets of "How Long Has This Been Going On" bobbing and weaving above the surface, indicating the place where Gershwin's tune once floated. This interlude is fresh and interesting, without the slightest hint of banality or conventional jazz piano vocabulary. When Grenadier and Rossy return, more than four minutes later, their calming rubato gestures cap a remarkable performance.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia
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