Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

326

Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
As a classically trained teen, Brad Mehldau was introduced to the music of Keith Jarrett setting him on the road to jazz. He did not abandon the classical genre and those influences were powerfully present in his first solo release Elegiac Cycle (1999). He has since written pieces for the Orchestre National d'Île-de-France and Carnegie Hall commissions for Anne Sofie von Otter and Renée Fleming respectively. Highway Rider is a two disc showcase of Mehldau's growth as both a composer and musician. He cites Bob Alcivar's arrangements and orchestration with Tom Waits as a major influence as occasionally heard in the shades of One From the Heart. Like that great soundtrack, this is classically influenced music but it remains jazz with strings; a difficult to categorize sub-genre and a combination that can be quicksand in the wrong hands.

Mehldau reunites here with producer Jon Brion (Largo 2002) and together they ensure that the strings were an enhancement to the jazz component and not vice versa. The mixing successfully avoids an overly sentimental atmosphere—the most challenging issue in this format. The inclusion of saxophonist, Joshua Redman with Mehldau's regular trio of drummer, Jeff Ballard and bassist, FLY was insightful on several levels. As expected, Redman's dynamic and individualist style adds depth to the piano trio format, helping to put the jazz front and center. Redman was a founder and the Artistic Director of the eleven-member San Francisco Jazz Collective for several years. That large ensemble experience brings a valuable skill set to this setting as well.

Among the many highlights in this fifteen-song collection is "Don't Be Sad," a long, bluesy, boozy piece. The undulating tempo plays like a codependent relationship; it alternately beckons then repels with Redman and the strings primarily acting the parts. "We'll Cross the River Together" juxtaposes strings with improvised solos from both Mehldau and Redman. Redman's saxophone acts as a conduit for the quartet and the strings and the two distinctive forms never feel in opposition, thanks to Mehldau's arrangement. "Always Returning" is something of an overture (despite being the closing track) and gives the chamber orchestra and Mehldau their best opportunity to shine as collaborators.

There are a number of quartet-only tracks on Highway Rider and each would be a worthy contribution in any solely jazz oriented collection. Particular stand outs include, "Old West" and "Sky Turning Grey" which features a beautifully fluid solo by Redman. Little embellishments throughout the collection (hand claps, brief wordless vocals, and pump organ), provide just enough lightness without muddying the overall atmosphere. The chamber orchestra is conducted by Dan Coleman whose contribution cannot be overstated. Highway Rider is important not just for Mehldau's significant musical contribution but also because it is one of those rare and potent reminders that jazz not only thrives but continues to evolve in the hands of truly creative artists.


Track Listing: CD1: John Boy; Don't Be Sad; At the Tollbooth; Highway Rider; The Falcon Will Fly Again; Now You Must Climb Alone; Walking the Peak. CD2: We'll Cross the River Together; Capriccio; Sky Turning Grey (For Elliott Smith); Into the City; Old West; Come With Me; Always Departing; Always Returning.

Personnel: Brad Mehldau: piano (CD1#1-5, CD1#7, CD2#1-6, CD2#8), pump organ (CD1#2, CD2#3), Yamaha CS-80 (CD1#4), orchestral bells (CD1#7, CD2#1, CD2#8), handclaps (CD2#2), la la la vocals (CD1#5); Jeff Ballard: percussion (CD1#1, CD1#5, CD2#2), snare brush (CD1#2), drums (CD1#7, CD2#1, CD2#4, CD2#6, CD2#8), la la la vocals (CD1#5); handclaps (CD2#2); Joshua Redman: soprano saxophone (CD1#1, CD1#5, CD2#2, CD2#8), tenor saxophone (CD1#2, CD1#7, CD2#1, CD2#3, CD2#5), handclaps (CD2#2), la la la vocals (CD1#5), ; Larry Grenadier: bass (CD1#2, CD1#4, CD1#7, CD2#1, CD2#3, CD2#4, CD2#6, CD2#8); handclaps (CD2#2); Matt Chamberlain: drums (CD1#2, CD1#4, CD1#5, CD1#7, CD1#8, CD2#2, CD2#3), handclaps (CD2#2), la la la vocals (CD1#5); Orchestra, Dan Coleman, conductor (CD1#1, CD1#2, CD1#6, CD1#7, CD2#1, CD2#7, CD2#8), la la la vocals (CD1#5); The Fleurettes: la la la vocals (CD1#5).

Title: Highway Rider | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Copenhagen Live 1964 CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Somewhere Glimmer CD/LP/Track Review Somewhere Glimmer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Gonimoblast Live" CD/LP/Track Review Gonimoblast Live
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 25, 2017
Read "Luma" CD/LP/Track Review Luma
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Insufficient Funs" CD/LP/Track Review Insufficient Funs
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "United" CD/LP/Track Review United
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "Oaktree" CD/LP/Track Review Oaktree
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 12, 2017
Read "Everybody Loves Angels" CD/LP/Track Review Everybody Loves Angels
by Henning Bolte
Published: October 26, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!