Brad Mehldau Trio - Ode - Album Review

Nonesuch Records

By Tina Dealwis

Ode is the latest release for the Brad Behldau Trio, consisting of Mehldau on piano, Jeff Ballard on drums, and Larry Grenadier on bass. The group’s first studio album since 2005, Ode is an 11-song sampling of all-original instrumental jazz compositions, written by Mehldau for trio. Mehldau’s piano stars throughout the album, generally playing the melodies, and veering off into great solos and complex arrangements—with strong backing from the drums and bass. Each song on Ode is a tribute or “ode” to a different person, evoking different feelings. Behldau has said that he wrote the lyric-less songs to feel like they might be sung—or as he describes it, “It’s the singing, only without all those pesky words.”

The opening track, “M.B.,” a tribute to the late saxophonist Michael Brecker, is a straight-ahead, upbeat jazz tune that mixes tempos and rhythms. The title track, “Ode,” with a beautiful melody and minor key feel, evokes a sentimental feeling. It is followed by the toe-tapping “26,” and then slows down for “Dream Sketch.”

Grenadier’s bass is featured on the next track, “Bee Blues,” which has a mellow, summer-time groove, and the bass and drums also shine on “Stan the Man.” “Kurt Vibe” is a smooth, rhythmic tribute to Kurt Rosenwinkel. “Wyatt’s Eulogy for George Hanson” is more melancholy in tone, as the title might suggest. “Aquaman,” is a fun, quirky, upbeat song. The tempo slows again to introduce the album finale, “Days of Dilbert Delaney,” before picking up again in the middle of this nine-minute showcase.

Ode is an enjoyable album, filled with great musicianship and strong songwriting. It is highly recommended for dedicated jazz fans and for those looking to newly explore the world of modern jazz.