Brad Mehldau

Elegiac Cycle

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Brad Mehldau's first solo piano album is not only his best record to date, it is one of the most searching, most inventive solo piano albums since Keith Jarrett's best solo concerts of the 1970s, and it throws virtually the whole Maybeck series into a cocked hat, too. For one thing, it is a truly unified cycle of mostly improvised reminiscences, starting from a Chopin prelude-like base on "Bard," peaking dynamically with "Trailer Park Ghost," and cycling right back to the "Bard" theme seamlessly, inevitably, at the close. It is also radically different from so many jazz solo piano records because Mehldau's primary thrust is contrapuntal, with both hands playing independent single lines, not the usual bop runs with harmonies or stacked chords. Perhaps Mehldau's playing doesn't swing here as much as one would like, but it is always intelligent, often endearingly melodic, always technically resourceful ("Memory's Tricks," for example, turns into a two-part invention), and even when he breaks off some startling change, you always sense the shape and direction of each piece. Here, he throws off the shackles of the Bill Evans model once and, hopefully, for all, employing classical models other than impressionists (Bach, Brahms, Chopin, and Schumann come to mind), and in doing so, he makes a big mark on the future of jazz solo piano. And Mehldau is not only an unusually gifted pianist, he is also an intriguing thinker; his long, rambling, wide-ranging essay in the booklet is one of the most interesting artist-penned liner notes in memory.

blue highlight denotes track pick