Brad Mehldau Trio: Kingston, Canada April 11, 2010
Grenadier's reputation as a rhythm section anchor was cemented when he first emerged in the early '90s, but he's become a far more significant soloist over the last few yearsno coincidence, perhaps, with Mehldau's trio (still his main gig) becoming a far more egalitarian group of conversationalists when Ballard replaced departing original drummer, the excellent but more mainstream-focused Jorge Rossy. His solo on "Dream Sketch" and on the relaxed swing of the trio's take on Charlie Parker's "Cheryl," set the bar high for the rest of the set, but it was his playing on the set closer, a characteristically profound look at Sufjan Stevens' "Holland" where the bassist transcended individualistic concerns, his upper register playing becoming an unexpected extension of Mehldau's own mid-to-low register work and providing some of the performance's strongest evidence of this trio's ability to take predefined form and turn it into thoroughly spontaneous composition.
Mehldau didn't speak until well into the setmore than halfway, in fact, after a lovely reading of Chico Buarque's "Samba e Amore." Usually a man of few words, his delivery was as relaxed as the overall vibe of the set; and funny, too, remarking, after introducing Grenadier and Ballard, that he had just noticed they were both wearing white shirts, but only just, because he rarely pays any attention to them offstage. Even more revealing was his brief final words after an especially moving version of Irving Berlin's "Isn't This a Lovely Day," where he mused about how Berlin wrote the melody on the black keys only, as if this was less a restriction than an opportunity to explore a context with some predefined parameters.
The unassuming and relaxed nature his Kingston performance could have meant just a very good one, but in show that mixed compelling originals with covers old and new, ran the gamut from traditional swing to modernistic groove, and highlighted both unerring individual excellence and collective class, Brad Mehldau Trio delivered a show that was even better than his 2006 and 2009 performances at the nearby TD Ottawa International Jazz Festivaland will, no doubt, be remembered by the enthusiastic crowd for a long time to come.