I have an ambiguous relationship to Brad Mehldau’s music. On the one hand, I’ve featured him both in my 25 Essential Jazz albums, and My Top 10 Jazz Covers of Pop Songs, which means there is stuff he’s done I really love and would rate 5 star.
I also liked his recent 10 Years Solo Live album which I have yet to review, and had a ticket for one of his recent solo concerts (which unfortunately I couldn’t attend as a gastric flu had knocked me out).
On the other hand, there are albums I just loathe, and give them a solid two stars (really not my cup of tea), e.g. Largo.
Nevertheless, I’ve been following him quite closely, you just never know what you get next.
Blues and Ballads (Nonesuch 2016)
So obviously, the moment the new trio album came out (just some days ago), I started streaming it.
So, are we in two or five star territory here?
Actually, neither nor.
My first impression here is “quite nice”. And not in the indirect sense that the word nice these days is quite regularly used, I actually kind of like it.
There are some beautiful ballads, several of them 9 or 10 minutes long (something I often appreciate, as it gives the music more time to develop).
Some of my favorite tracks are the two last ones on the album And I Love Her, and My Valentine. These two alone, for my particular taste, make the album worth checking out.
On the other hand, when we go to the first part of the album title, the Blues part, I’m less convinced. There are tracks I personally could easily live without, e.g. Cheryl, where to my ears the trio tries to sound like Monk but doesn’t really succeed.
Another really enjoyable track is the Jon Brion cover Little Person, confirming again that Mehldau plays an important role in bringing the contemporary Pop repertoire into Jazz.
So overall, a slightly mixed bag, but I still like the good tracks of the album enough to recommend the entire thing. Will I buy this (which I do for my personal favorites and to support the artist) or stick to streaming? Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up clicking on the buy button eventually.
In any case, give it a try!
My rating: 4 stars (this is one more of the cases where I was hesitating to give 3.5 stars, but I don’t want to stray away from my own rating scale, and the good songs on this album are really worth it).