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Ballard is a more physical, busier, and more energetic drummer, allowing for Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier to up the ante in terms of dynamic and rhythmic options.
Day Is Done offered a number of wonderfully contrasting moments where Mehldau, a big pop music fan from all eras, wove a tapestry from Burt Bacharach and John Lennon to Nick Drake and Colin Greenwood, from Paul Simon to Chris Cheek, as well as inserting a few of his own compositions. This trio has also recorded with Pat Metheny on two dates in and This is the first live date to feature the group on its own, and it is a very healthy helping. Comprised of two discs recorded at the Village Vanguard during a six-night stint in October of , it showcases the many varied strengths of this already deeply intuitive group.
The groove is at the center and he brings it home while Grenadier accents it constantly. The Buarque song is given an extrapolated treatment here as it switches from samba to bossa to funk and even modalism while never losing its lyric sensibility, and -- what may be the best thing here -- note the hand over hand soloing Mehldau does in the middle of the tune and have your breath taken away.
Finally, disc one closes with the Noble ballad, offering a hint as to just how subtle this rhythm section can be. As the pianist articulates one of his knottier melodies with long lines that twist and turn inside themselves, Ballard double- and triple-times the band while rolling the ride cymbal enough for a solid pulse to come shimmering through.
Grenadier follows both men, offering the middle ground between the flights of two brilliant soloists. This is genuinely new jazz, not just a showcase over a rhythm section. More evidence is on the Heath number "C. His opening volley of intensely pointed ranginess is worthy of Oscar Peterson. The solo is wildly inventive because the entire harmonic structure of the tune is in there, pushed to the brink by the deep register, right-hand chord voicings he employs that walk the line between stride and post-bop.
When the rhythm section enters, the mood changes. Live is deeply satisfying on all levels including the price point. Mehldau and Nonesuch have made the purchase of the double-disc set very attractive.
For seasoned jazz fans and those of the pianist in particular, this is nothing short of total delight.
Brad Mehldau Trio