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Progression: Art of the Trio, volume 5 – Brad Mehldau Trio

Warner Brothers Records 9 48005-2

Brad Mehldau's liner notes are often as important as his trio's creations.

Consistently, his literary interpretations and reconstructions of

perlocutionary mythical structures, typically diffuse in a Derridean sense,

invoke a spirit to rescind the structural tenets mandating music. Mehldau's

writing often exists, sadly, in a vacuum, wherein de Man and Rousseau have

been sloughed (or at least expurgated), thus explaining how his own words,

his own title, all debase his luminous commentary. A desire for music

manumitting from specific, historical boundaries are hindered by a blindness

to the past, as Mehldau obdurately unacknowledged the definition of

"progression" and the overtly quixotic creation of an aesthetic, autonomous


For the past, Davis and Evans, stand as markers, enormous mental monoliths,

supplying the listener with a knowledge allowing for acceptance; examples

like Manet's "Olympia" expose the mental constraints of the opposite

spectrum. A true musical event, occurring in a moment of spontaneous

creation, or of "will" not "harmony," would be the ineffable seas preceding

"fiat lux." Such a moment of irrationality, wherein relations and the

concomitant life of each word or sound has yet to evolve becomes a melee,

which references to the past all attempt to solidify. To exhort the

trammeling nature of words and categorization would be to stultify one's

existence, to freely accept amnesia in a recurring state of metempsychosis,

a constant method of forgetting.

But, the term 'forgetting' implies prior existence and knowledge. A

hypothetical question arises: "Can Mehldau sit and create in a pure state of

unconsciousness, wherein middle C no longer exists?" which would be similar

to asking, "Do the great sands of God's language (signified and signifier)

ever leave or do they deftly undergo metamorphosis?" Methinks Mehldau

answers the question, as hypothetical becomes rhetorical [a literary

progression, or transformation-line theory] by stating "Progression," and by

covering popular American jazz pieces. The connection to the past exists,

and the impetus to create a modus operandi of memory obviation solidifies

the point further; Mehldau adverts to the past in his enmity for the menhirs

of history. The great dolmen remains in the field because the prostrate

Druid followers need the dolmen to move forward, and acquire empyrean


Mehldau, through his disdain about writing about music, refuses to expound

on the center which remains untouched, the "cogito" which will remain saved.

If progression must exist, does a perceptual core, one which exists but not

in a state of immediacy, allow for a moment which satisfies Mehldau's cloy

desires for musical autonomy? In his Derridean, post-modern bliss, a

connubial arrangement, Mehldau potentially neglects the cogito,

circumlocutes his own desires and binds them in a prolix, turbid sequence.

Attempting to write about the horrors of language, music has been defined

and the subsequent freedom of music stifled. Semiology and mimesis are

replace by complacency and indolence as Mehldau cuts corners in an effort to

"save music" rather than examining the tenets which remain unbowdlerized by

language; the visage of God does exist, but be heedless about the nebulous


What might worry Mehldau is the reviewer's tendentious use of a CD as

palmistry: to conclude on the prescience of the subject beyond the moment.

When writers state "he plays like Bill Evans," they potentially chart his

future, attempting to expose their brilliance through a glib, platitude of

ill-conceived clairvoyance. Such temerity ceases the artist's future; for

the future and present remain embedded in the past, but not entitled to the

past. For the next note will come in reference to a previous entity, but

which entity, and where, remains the artist's moment of pure freedom. A

dictatorship which every artist must capitulate to, allows for the ultimate

moments of artistic equanimity, where the construct bends and the

definitions can quickly alter: the sands precipitately shift, but the sand

forever remains.

When listening to "Progression," the conflict between the artist's desires

and the constructs are ubiquitous on the two CD set. The conflict, which

arises in the incessant idiomatic shifts from jazz and classical, from Monk

to Evans, and from Riley to Karush, are an essential, auditory example of

the artist's struggle for an autonomous paradigm. However even a philistine

and not the anomaly of a dilettante can comprehend and find the inimical

moments, and will make "Progression" a fascinating purchase, one far

ponderous and pensive then ninety-nine percent of the albums in existence.

What sounds like simple jazz, straight and mellifluous, contains the

perpetual artistic struggle; the only commendation Mehldau would likely want

from his listeners, as each mellow chord embodies a strident,

intractability. "Mr. Mehldau meet Mr. Artaud, Mr. Artaud say hello to Mr.

Mehldau," as the liner notes try to palliate the listener from considering

such an apotheosis.

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