The newly renowned pianist, returning to the studio for this, his fourth American release, avoids the lengthy cadenzas which were an unusual, prominent and exciting feature of his last recording. He retains another of his distinguishing stylistic characteristics, though: witness the bravura counterpoint passage during his solo in "Unrequited."
That said, the essential difference between this and the earlier, live date is in the frequently melancholy tone of Songs. There's some of the excitement which Mehldau brought to his Village Vanguard recording, but it's not widespread. He's helped by Grenadier and Rossy; the interactivity in the trio makes for some of the high spots in their recorded output.
It just doesn't get to me. For example, a ballad is an opportunity for a reflective pianist to really let the music breathe, something that Mehldau does on "For All We Know," but on "Bewitched," the slow pace seems to frustrate him, and he responds by dropping the pianist's equivalent of a drummer's bombs.
To some degree, he's a remarkably untraditional jazz pianist, using counterpoint instead of swing as his central principle. Perhaps I need my jazz pianists to be a little dirtier. But there's no question that Mehldau's music is a treat for those who want to hear something different, and who like moodiness and melancholy expertly purveyed by an improvising pianist.
Track Listing: Song-song; Unrequited; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Exit Music (for a film); At a Loss; Convalescent; For All We Know; River Man; Young at Heart; Sehnsucht.
Personnel: Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Jorge Rossy: drums.