BRAD MEHLDAU: Songs - The Art of the Trio, Vol. 3 (Warner Brothers)

Brad Mehldau is one of the hottest jazz pianists around right now, and he demonstrates why on his latest CD. Unlike his last effort, Volume Three stays away from the lengthy improvisational pieces; and this time, focuses more on the songs. Mehldau mixes his originals in with some interesting covers-ranging from Rodgers and Hart to Radiohead-and from time to time, the results border on brilliance. Some of the songs are absolutely gorgeous. Yet on others, his classical roots get in the way and things get a bit too intense.

Musically, the best tracks are the standards. His arrangements on "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "For All We Know" are peaceful and relaxing. One of the more interesting tracks is the trio's rendition of "Young at Heart." It begins with Mehldau soloing beautifully over a pair of music boxes. Unfortunately, his classical side kicks in and things get a bit over the top. Aside from that, Mehldau and his band (Jorge Rossy on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass) serve up one inspired performance after another. Fans will love this CD, but it may be a bit too much for others.

© 1999 Steve Marshall