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Largo – Brad Mehldau

Warner Brothers Records 9 48114-2

Modern music can't avoid the holy trinity of Bs: Burt Bacharach, the Beach
Boys and the Beatles. Brad Mehldau appears a strange choice to enter such a
world when examined from afar. Much like Kenny Jarrett, Mehldau has always
appeared adept at adding textures and emotionality through technical
expertise; best heard with merely a brush stroke on the snare and a lonely
thumping bass.

However, a love of pop music has underscored most of Mehldaus releases. Last
year's two CD live set, Progression, contained a moving rendition of
Nick Drake's "River Man". A few years prior, on Art of the Trio, volume
4, the album closed with a poignant performance of Radiohead's "Exit:
Music for a Film". If Mehldau senses a connection to these songs, it
unquestionably returns to the Jarrett driven issue of emotionality: both
pieces epitomize the use of texture and melody towards an accurate sense of

But here a question, which has already been alluded to, arises: If he can
solely carry such a composition, what can additional, electronic textures or
brass arrangements add?

For the most part, very little to what the music conveys, much like Wilco,
whom unintentionally created a clear distinction between the songs'
instrumentation and the Conet Project samples. Mehldau teamed with rock
producer Jon Brion, ostensibly to meld the electronic augmentations with the
songs being performed. Rather than placing a greater emphasis upon certain
ideas, the sounds simply entertain their own reveries.

If anything, the effects sadly steer Mehldau into the inebriated terrain of
Medeski Martin and Wood. Tracks such as "Free Willy," "Franklin Avenue" and
"Alvarado," all bear a passing similarity to the free jazz experiments of
MMW; incidentally, a band who also prides themselves on useless effects. A
composition such as "Alvarado" erodes and falls apart in a rather intriguing
Medeski style, yet the tablas and foreign bloops remain back-burnered

The lengthy discourses written by Mehldau which have graced all of his
previous releases don't appear in Largo's liner notes. For all of the
talk about the trinity of Bs, Mehldau may have never wanted to reach the
symphonic heights of the Beach Boys or the Beatles, despite covering "Dear
Prudence" and "Mother Nature's Son". Instead, the brass accompaniment on
several tracks, including the opening "When It Rains" serv, some arcane,
ulterior motive which had motivation but no patent goal. Of course, given
his final written statement about the inanity of scribbled analyses of
music, maybe the joke is on all of us. Maybe, we were all looking for
something Mehldau never intended with Largo; an ingenious possibility

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