Brad Mehldau – Highway Rider

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Brad Mehldau
LABELS: Nonesuch
PERFORMER: Brad Mehldau (piano), Jeff Ballard, Matt Chamberlain (drums), Larry Grenadier (bass), Joshua Redman (sax)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559798270

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Jazz musicians are drawn to strings – and sometimes they get they get their lines crossed. Classically inclined pianist Brad Mehldau is better equipped than most. He’s spent time in the other camp, writing for singers Anne Sofie von Otter and Renée Fleming and has scored a piece for the Orchestre National d’Île de France. Plus he says recently he’s been studying ‘the big Romantic stuff’.

Writing and arranging for a small group with a 15-piece chamber orchestra, Mehldau has come up with what is effectively the widescreen version of modern jazz. The strings add a cinematic effect, helping describe the epic journey suggested by the song titles.

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Mehldau leads from the centre, with his regular taut and tidy rhythm section pulling the focus on his sometimes discursive lines; Joshua Redman, an expressive, confidant co-star transcends the supporting role to contribute his own take on the tunes. Jazz is sometimes euphemistically known as American classical music – this marvellous, meticulous production makes the combination real. Garry Booth