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.
Yet another great movie theme from my youth evoking melancholy and ennui addressed by one of the great musicians/characters of his day. While Kirk may be better known for his persona and extended techniques (circular breathing and playing multiple instruments at one time), down deep his poetic take on this Bacharach/David piece is awe-inspiring. As is often the case with artists of this caliber, you hear the history of the jazz saxophone interspersed with the unique voiceprint of the individual. The bandís sensitivity is top-notch throughout with Boykins standing out in particular. Dig the trick ending!
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