COMPOSERS: Brad Mehldau
ALBUM TITLE: House On Hill
WORKS: House On Hill
PERFORMER: Brad Mehldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jorge Rossy (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559 79911-2
House On Hill is something of a flashback for Mehldau fans. It was recorded in 2002 in the same two-day session that resulted in the Anything Goes album. Where that disc consisted of reworkings of jazz and popular standards, this new release has pianist Mehldau improvising around his own original themes. Working without the props of familiar tunes, Mehldau is holding his improvising art up to the light – and it shines.
Rather than simply composing tunes, Mehldau deliberately set out to create an improvising context, inspired in part by Thelonious Monk. And while he hasn’t really produced anything so pungently idiosyncratic as the original bebopper, it is still mesmerising stuff. The carefully plotted piano lines, becoming stealthy and snaking, resemble a masterclass in controlled extemporisation. His deliberate and precise two-handed approach – reflected sharply back by Rossy on drums and Grenadier on bass – pick out and pick over the bones of delightfully spare tunes. Jazz students will do well to take note: there is no doubt that House On Hill should have a compulsory purchase order put on it. Garry Booth