Wednesday, 7 April 2010


A recent acquisition of mine is the new Brad Mehldau double album “Highway Rider”.
Got quite a bit of his stuff already. Mainly trio recordings, one solo and a couple where he duos with guitarist Pat Metheny.
Here though, over the span of this large work, he’s in various set ups; with at time’s Joshua Redman on sax (who’s inclusion on this album was one of the reasons I was keen to get it), in familiar territory with the traditional trio set up, with a full chamber orchestra or with various combinations of all.
Overall the album has the feel of a [dare I say it?] “concept” album. It’s almost a musical description of a road trip – real or imaginary. Why the trip was made the listener will probably never know – certainly more extensive sleeve notes would have been nice. . You’re either making a trip to find something/get somewhere or to get away from something/somewhere.
But there seems to be an overall feeling of melancholic sadness or loneliness about it. That said there are one or two lively burst of spontaneous happiness.
Favourite so far, after limited listening, has to be “Don’t Be Sad”, a full ensemble tune with Joshua Redman taking centre stage in a really mellow, slow, country-waltz style number. It’s got a real sort of Mid West feel about it that, to me, is very similar to the kind of thing Dave Bruebeck did so well. Is it classical, is it country or is it jazz? Well all three to be honest and it really works well.
Thankfully this album doesn’t descend into cheesy “With Strings” territory (though there’s nothing wrong with that every now and then).
But is it too much of a good thing? Overall I think this is a great album and I’m certain it’s going to be one that gets repeated airings for a while to come. So why does it leave me wanting to revisit the earlier, sparser sound of the Trio albums? I think they really hold the kernel of what I like about Mehldau’s music.

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