Brad Mehldau
Elegiac Cycle
Warner Brothers 947357-2

Brad Mehldau, solo piano and composer

With so many fine pianists recording their own work, how might one know what to choose to fulfill expectations - the emotional, spiritual, and personal satisfaction and just the joy of Jazz? The answer, I suggest, is to hear as many as you can. That, of course, includes Brad Mehldau. One can gather from his liner notes that he is a contemplative man who, like just about all musicians, takes his music seriously. His compositions on this disc are rooted in the bard, both in the poetic and Shakespearean sense. They are also related in some way to other ruminators who've influenced his life. Using melodic and improvisational structure for, as the title suggests, the elegiac cycle of life, Mehldau's music runs an emotional gamut from anguish to elation. His elegies are intense and cerebral. He does invoke modern Jazz lines (tough for an experienced Jazz player to avoid, even without a rhythm section), and his compositions sometimes suggest Bill Evans as well as Chopin and Bartok. In the main, however, this collection seems intended for some serious empathy with listeners.

Mehldau's performances are innovative, sincere, personal expressions. They are more contemplations than Jazz. Listening to this collection is like going to a concert by a solo pianist who, through his music, wishes to share the way he feels about some of life's vicissitudes. This music doesn't swing as Jazz might but swings in its own way. If you get it, you'll love it.

by Tom Bowers

New Sounds - CD Reviews March 2000