Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Perfect Sounds Listening Booth, weeks 14-16, 2010

Wrote this a week or so ago, and had initially thought I'd have at least two more before I threw it out there, but the blog needs some action. So here's the first PS Listening Booth.
  • Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (Nonesuch, 2010) - Sure, he's melodically strong, and yes both his playing and the band is exceptionally solid and well tempered, but I find very little of what I look for and enjoy most in jazz in Mehldau's music; the tempered playing means the music is emotionally moderate and one dimensional as well. There's very little heart, no guts, no push and pull, no fun, no bursts of energy. His music feels brainy as in cold and calculated, not as in witty and smart. Highway Rider only confirms those impressions, though at times there are slightly more expansive and even filmatic themes here, augmented by a string section here and there and perhaps bent that way by Jon Brion's production. At their best, the band has a nice shuffle, reminicent of, say, Randy Newman (without the bite), but even here I miss something. Maybe it is vocals. At other times it's pretty, but very little else. For melodically strong low key jazz I'd rather look to Ben Allison. (5/10)*
* Grades are tentative, based on three or four listens, sometimes a few more. Much of the writing is done during listens, and should be considered notes more than final reviews.

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