Recording information: Mad Hatter Recording Studios, Los Angeles, CA (09/04/1996/09/05/1996); Mad Hatter Studios, Los Angeles, CA (09/04/1996/09/05/1996).
Photographer: Andrea Marouk.
Brad Mehldau's interaction with his trio was always as important an element of his '90s work as his own harmonic adventurousness. The first volume of ART OF THE TRIO puts the symbiotic relationship between Mehldau, drummer Jorge Rossy, and bassist Larry Grenadier under a microscope. The inner workings of this organism are as astonishing as they are inspirational. While Mehldau retains his delicate touch and Debussy-via-Bill Evans harmonic approach, his romanticism is less dewy-eyed here.
His version of "Blame it on My Youth" (he would later acknowledge the influence of Chet Baker's take on this tune) is full of pointed, precisely executed runs that stand in sharp contrast to the composition's potential for romantic indulgence. Rossy and Grenadier interlock perfectly with Mehldau, matching him with rhythms that are more extension than underpinning. A simple, poignant reading of the Beatles' "Blackbird" reminds the listener that Mehldau is young enough to be Bill Evans's son, though artistically the two pianists are unquesionably peers.
Entertainment Weekly (2/7/97, p.70) - "...deftly balances considered lyricism with youthful vigor..." - Rating: B+
Down Beat (3/97, p.47) - 4.5 Stars - (out of 5) - "...Mehldau is...fully capable of confirming the endless expressive possiblities that are potential within the piano trio, the minimum complete jazz orchestra..."
JazzTimes (3/97, pp.89-90) - "...The feeling of the pianist's trio is reminiscent of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett....The group's restraint and taste differ from the brash approach prevalent in today's jazz market. Very refreshing."