Possibly one of the most original voices in jazz since the 90s, Brad Mehldau made a big impact with his series of post bop/contemporary piano trio recordings that revealed his unique conversation-like soloing style that can grab your attention and string your mind along following some odd twists and turns like an off-the-wall comedian who keeps firing off flow-of-conscious mutterings under his breath long after the punch line has passed. After spending the 90s releasing enough acoustic trio albums to establish a strong reputation, Mehldau decided to throw everyone a curve in 2002 with the release of “Largo”, on which Brad’s piano is given electronic and mechanical treatments and joined by a variety of electric and acoustic instruments to create some off the wall nu jazz style jam sessions interlaced with a few spacey trip-hop numbers. Brad also plays the vibes on a couple cuts too.
Album opener, “When it Rains”, is one of the best on the album as it starts with a laid back trip-hop groove supporting a very 60s Beatles type psychedelic chord progression on which Brad plays a lazy melody that beautifully stretches the concept of ‘playing behind the beat’ to its almost breaking point. This original song is a sort of preview for the two Beatles’ covers that exist elsewhere on the album. “Dear Prudence” is excellent and follows a formula similar to the album opener, and “Mother Nature’s Son” is great as a neo-exotica number played on the vibes and backed by a driving drumnbass beat.
Elsewhere on “Largo” you get a lot of tracks that sound like experimental jams very much in the style of Medeski, Martin and Wood. Some of these tracks are better than others, but after a while too many jam tracks stuck together can get a little tedious. This probably isn’t the best CD for someone looking for an introduction to Brad’s music, certainly his trio recordings provide much stronger piano playing, but for the fan looking for a totally different side to his music, there are some nice cuts on here. Fans of modern instrumental bands that combine jam band electronica with neo-exotica sounds will find some nice things on here too.