Brad Mehldau is becoming a more interesting, more thought-provoking, more individualistic musician with each release -- breaking away from the same old models, finding new ones to integrate into his own personality. The 11 compositions on this CD were conceived on the road, and only midway through did Mehldau realize that they developed similar ideas. Which indeed they do, seizing upon repeated riffing and vamps that Keith Jarrett has explored and sending them in cogent directions. The designated theme is travel; each selection bears the name of a place or mood, and the catchy, contemplative "Los Angeles" serves as the album's bookends, as well as a solo pit stop in the center. Like Elegiac Cycle, Places works like a song cycle; a unified, beautifully proportioned conception, with lots of rambunctious, swinging outbreaks amidst the contemplation. The titles in themselves mean nothing as far as the content of the music is concerned -- or so he writes in another lengthy, provocative liner note. Rather, the album is about the constancy of his personality and musical language, taking all of your personal mental baggage with you wherever you travel. This is an important album, one that anyone interested in piano jazz ought to check out.
by Richard S. Ginell