Pianist Brad Mehldau has regularly performed with his trio, which has included bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard since 2004, when the latter replaced Jorge Rossy. As a trio, they've spent relatively little time in the studio together exclusively -- it's been seven years since Day Is Done. On 2010's Highway Rider, Mehldau augmented the group with Matt Chamberlain, Joshua Redman, and an orchestra. Ode marks the very first album comprised of all Mehldau material cut by this trio. While the title may reflect a a certain ponderousness, these 11 tunes are anything but. Specifically written for this group, they show off an increasingly muscular sense of interplay and stylistic athleticism that wasn't nearly as present on Day Is Done. "M.B." (written in memory of Michael Brecker) states a bluesy theme and moves off into several directions, seemingly at once. Mehldau quickly moves through the head, finds a space, and the band stops on a dime, investigating the various changes seemingly note by note before taking off again. Grenadier's riffing during Mehldau's solo is especially riveting, and his tone is full of wood. Mehldau's soloing on "Stan the Man" is busier, faster, and even denser, as if Art Tatum's wide-reaching blues were his inspiration. On the title track, he maintains the changes and vamp with his left hand as his right hand goes off into free dancing mode. On the Latin-tinged "Dream Sketches," Grenadier's bass solo is not only full of imagination, but twists and turns in groove quotient as well. Ballard's kinetic drumming and percussion are riveting on virtually everything, but here it is exceptionally propulsive. Mehldau's pianism is much more pointillistic; accenting grooves, underscoring them, and finding spaces within them for short, melodic bursts that point to the worlds outside the tune. "Wyatt's Eulogy For George Hanson," begins as a sketchy ballad that moves into a wonderful Grenadier solo before becoming a complex, somewhat dissonant harmonic exploration --Mehldau's use of the lower register is gorgeous. "Aquaman" is another sprint, with quickly shifting ideas and taut interplay. As an album, Odes reveals just how far this group has traveled together these past seven years. More importantly, it provides an exciting glimpse of what may lie on their collective horizon.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek