The track listing of Seymour Reads The Constitution!
is ultimately as deceptive as the album's title (not to mention its cryptic cover image). The ten cuts feature only three compositions written by Brad Mehldau
, yet these pieces constitute almost half the record's sixty-plus minutes playing time. As a result, the covers provide exceptional pacing because the pianist and his band explore that material just as deftly, only slightly less intently.
And markedly less intensely than, for example, the ten minutes-plus pianist Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier
and drummer Jeff Ballard
delve into the archly-titled "Ten Tune." The three players run the gauntlet of emotion during this longest track on the album, moving fluently from euphoric delight to somber rumination, mixing portent and abandon along the way. By contrast, the gentle invitation of the opener, "Spiral," finds the bandleader playing figures that proceed in exactly that motion, almost but not quite floating because of the insistence Grenadier and Ballard apply to their own instruments. And it's only appropriate the threesome take a decidedly nonchalant approach to the title song, but that attitude hardly precludes the creation of structure necessary to tell a (sociopolitical?) story in the most vivid way possible.
With his extended essays on titles including Art of the Trio 4: Back at the Vanguard
(Warner Bros., 1999), as well as eclectic efforts like Largo
(Warner Bros., 2003), Brad Mehldau has posited himself as something of a musicologist during the course of his career. As such, his selection of outside material invariably complements his own compositions, while the contemporary likes of warm pop such as Brian Wilson
's "Friends" or Paul McCartney
's "Great Day." compares favorably with the numbers he authored.
And by the choice of Frederick Loewe's vintage "Almost Like Being In Love," proffered with an ever-so-lovely and playful air, this esteemed jazz musician suggests the tradition of the great standard becomes wider all the time, particularly in light of the respect this trio affords the range of song(s) on this album, ever-so-delicately exploring the likes of Elmo Hope's "De-Dah." More conclusive homage to the heritage of pure jazz becomes conclusive with sequencing of saxophonist Sam Rivers' "Beatrice" as the closing cut. The Brad Mehldau Trio is both aware and knowledgeable of their most fundamental source
The release of Seymour Reads The Constitution!
so closely on the heels of his splendid solo piano work, After Bach (Nonesuch,2018), continues Brad Mehldau's prolific output over the years, an approach all the more admirable given the care he applies to each project. This effort features self-production in conjunction with the recording and mixing (across an expansive stereo spectrum) by James Farber at Avatar Studios in New York, a technical collaboration further enhanced through impeccable mastering by Greg Calbi. As a result, the recording is as clean, clear and crisp as the playing, the depth of interplay in that musicianship a logical extension of the album's reasoned conception.
Such interdependence of thought and action within Brad Mehldau's latest LP is right in line with the elevated level of accomplishment he customarily exhibits.
Spiral; Seymour Reads the Constitution!; Almost Like Being in Love; De-Dah; Friends; Ten Tune; Great Day; Beatrice.
Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.