Drummer Jeff Ballard reoriented the Brad Mehldau Trio from 2005-2018, after replacing Jorge Rossy. Ballard brought a degree of rock and was perhaps the source of a more subversive selection of material, such as covering Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and Radiohead's "Knives Out." Ballard is also key to the fiery Pat Metheny-Brad Mehldau Quartet, and one of his earliest trios, as leader, had Blue Note guitarist Lionel Loueke, from Benin. In this vein, Andromeda's Mystery serves as a complementary cross-cultural affair with Ballard on drums, electric guitarist David Doruzka, and pianist-keyboardist Piotr Wyleżoł.
The album was recorded in June 2021 in Brno, Czech Republic. Half of the tracks are compositions by Doružka, who is considered among the foremost young guitarists on the Czech jazz scene. Piotr Wyleżoł, from Poland, has three compositions on the recording, while Ballard has one.
Doružka as the centerpiece is a light and agile strummer with spurts of fury, with influences from Bill Frisell, Jim Hall, Marc Ribot and Frank Zappa. Zappa has had an immense influence on Czech rock and jazz, so at times, even if just momentarily, this trio sounds like Zappa's zesty and experimental forays into jazz-rock fusion.
The title track is inspired by the Greek myth of Andromeda. Opening track "From the Farthest Sky to the Deepest Sea" is contemplative and slow-building, revealing Wylezot's reverence for Mehldau's classical side. It is followed by a shift to jazz-rock fusion on "No Electricity." From this point on, it seems to be a friendly ping-pong affair of softer and cerebral compositions by Doružka, in contrast with harder, louder and certainly more unleashed ones composed by Wyleżoł. On the fourth track, "All My Tomorrows," Ballard opens it up by playing much of it with his bare hands and this one stands out as among the loosest, easy-going and melodious tracks.
Ballard's "Lone" at midpoint is a tender interlude. It is followed by the title track, by Doružka, which starts with a rocker's sizzle that Ballard masterfully leads, providing groundwork for solos by Wyleżoł (on organ and synthesizer) and showcasing Doružka. Track seven, by Doružka, is titled "Chorale (in Memory of Tomasz Stanko and Edward Vesala)." This is the most melancholic track of all. The jazz-rock fusion closer, "Murky Waters," by Wyleżoł, is a furious climax. The Moog serves as bass without detracting from Wyleżoł's solos on synth then electric piano. One wishes they would have at least a few more in the same vein to follow. For lack of any new releases from the Mehldau Trio, this album gets close enough.
From the Farthest Sky to the Deepest Sea; No Electricity; Sweet Farewell; All My Tomorrows; Lone;
Andromeda's Mystery; Chorale (In Memory of Tomas Stanko and Edward Vesala); Murky Waters.
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