Brad Mehldau and Brad Mehldau & Renée Fleming

Record review

Phases & Stages

Brad Mehldau Trio

House on Hill (Nonesuch)

Brad Mehldau & Renée Fleming

Love Sublime (Nonesuch)

In the decade he's been recording with his trio, 35-year-old pianist Brad Mehldau has set a particularly high standard for his generation. The trio, with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy, recently disbanded with Rossy's departure, and this sterling new release stands as a culmination of the band's extraordinary work. Virtually all of the album was recorded in a lengthy two-day session in 2002, with the cover tunes appearing on 2004's Anything Goes. House on Hill isn't merely a collection of Mehldau's original compositions from that date; rather, it's a focused showcase of his exceptional playing. There's no denying the remarkable interplay of the trio after many years together, but Mehldau, disciple of Bill Evans, is clearly in the spotlight, demonstrating a consistent knack for digging deeply into every tune and exploring the nooks and crannies of his music with an introspection that avoids obtuse navel-gazing. He can be cerebral, but he also swings. With this trio's demise and last year's Day Is Done already sporting a new drummer, Mehldau bids a fitting farewell to a prolific chapter of his young career. Fans of the trio will have a much harder time appreciating the pianist's tête-à-tête with classical vocalist Renée Fleming. Mehldau has composed music for Fleming's recitations of Rainer Maria Rilke's The Book Of Hours: Love Poems to God and Louise Bogan's The Blue Estuaries. Untrained ears will find Fleming irritating at best, with Mehldau nearly buried in classical mode. Jazz buyers beware.

(House on Hill) ***.5

(Love Sublime) *

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