Virtuoso pianist Brad Mehldau continues his Art of the Trio series with a two-CD set titled Art of the Trio, Vol. 5: Progression. Recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York City, this volume is his most satisfying triad outing yet. The trio opens disc one with a swinging up-tempo rendition of "The More I See You" and, for over ten minutes, Mehldau improvises his swinging instincts with his well-organized rhythmic partners, drummer Jorge Rossy and acoustic bassist Larry Grenadier. His original "Dream's Monk" features an extended variation on his profoundly introspective bebop. This composition is the centerpiece of disc one, which otherwise features covers of such standards as "Alone Together," "It Might as Well Be Spring," and "The Folks Who Live on the Hill." Disc two is evenly programmed with three originals by Brad Mehldau and three by Great American Songbook composers George & Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Sammy Fain, and Paul Francis Webster. On the nearly 15-minute rendition of the Gershwin/Kern composition "Long Ago and Far Away," Mehldau's rhythm section plays fervent bop lines over his brilliant piano arpeggios after a virtuosic introduction. Grenadier's bass solo remains one of the most memorable on this recording, with Mehldau delicately comping it with light piano chord voicings. Rossy deftly adjusts and readjusts his brushwork to provide just the right textures and musical accompaniment. Whereas The Art of the Trio, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, and Vol. 4 provided Mehldau's listeners with rich documentation of his piano mastery that often includes altered root motion and meter on standard tunes, blazing swing tempos, and poetic piano lines that can hover intensely in a ballad, his intrinsic musical signature is more substantial on Progression due to several stunning piano solos, ethereal vamps, and successive thematic transformations.
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AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2