After listening to Brad Mehldau on any of his releases, you can’t help but envy him?he’s an amazing jazz pianist, full of emotion and technical know-how.

“Largo,” however, may come as a shock to the seasoned Mehldau fan, since he is arranging for far more instruments ?he’s added horns, strings, eclectic percussion and electronica elements to his usual palate of drums and bass. Also, Mehldau’s excitedly exploring new avenues for his music.

If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll either like “Largo” or hate it. At worst, the songs sound heavy and too deviant from the Mehldau signature sound.

Some have chastised the CD, saying “the dialogue [has been] lost.” At best, you can say the sounds of “Largo” are full and rich, and may argue for Mehldau’s talent as a composer and arranger. He really knows how to evoke an image, especially during the songs “When It Rains” and “I Do.”

Some of the stranger tunes include “Dropjes” and “Sabbath.” “Dropjes” reminded me of Miles Davis being his most experimental. There’s atonal electronic noise in the background that makes for a scatterbrained feel. “Sabbath” is by far the most unexpected track on the album. It sounded as though Mehldau was playing on a piano turned buzz saw. Yet, as cacophonous as it may seem, it isn’t unpleasant. In fact, the song vaguely reminded me of something PJ Harvey-esque.

Perhaps the most amazing song on “Largo” is Mehldau’s arrangement of “Paranoid Android.” He’s dabbled in Radiohead territory before on previous albums, and each time the result has been a worthy homage.

This time around has been no exception, and truly is the best interpretation yet. “Paranoid Android” captures the original’s intensity and attitude, along with highlighting the song’s more moody, softer and solemn moments.

The percussion on the song is first rate and the brass during the slow segment before the ending is a hauntingly perfect touch.

My unexpected favorite track on the album is “Free Willy.” Every time I listen to the song, it reminds me of a whale swimming around in fast and crazy currents.

Mehldau’s piano manipulation, using “piano with putty treatment in the lower two octaves,” is ingenious. I never knew a piano could sound that way.

Besides playing around with different sounds, tones and beats, Mehldau really reinvents his style on “Largo.”

I see this album as a springboard for things to come?there’s lots of room for him to mess around in. Hopefully, though, he’ll occasionally come back to his more traditional trio roots. Regardless of which path Mehldau chooses in the future, he’s still retained a hell of an orjazzmic sound.

Schroeder can be reached at sschroeder@campustimes.org.



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