The jazz world has anticipated Brad Mehldau’s next move
since 2002’s Largo. Produced by pop-god Jon Brion,
Largo was Mehldau’s most elaborate experimental album.
The recording utilized rich orchestration, a rock drummer and
melancholic studio-tailored arrangements. Furthermore, it created a
new legion of young fans, those not acquainted with Mehldau’s
recorded past. Largo hinted at the possibility of Mehldau
moving in an entirely new mainstream direction. All this combines
to make Anything Goes, the follow-up album by the Brad
Mehldau Trio, an ironically risky endeavor. While most musicians
safely record standards, Mehldau’s departure from
experimentalist to traditionalist repertoire on the new recording
is a jolt.

That’s not to say Mehldau isn’t still Mehldau.
Deconstructivism and fragmentism are key to his musical vocabulary.
The trio maintains what some have termed musical telepathy, playing
extremely complicated rhythmic and harmonic gestures entirely in
sync. As in the past, Mehldau attempts a Radiohead cover as
well.

By far the most rewarding listens on Anything Goes are
the tracks where Mehldau takes the most liberties. On the Cole
Porter-penned “Anything Goes,” the trio utilizes a
colorful four-chord vamp to frame the melody on top of 5/4 time.
The solos sound fresh and inspired, and the players are equally
matched in virtuosity. “Get Happy” is equally
intriguing, pairing dissonant harmonies with an intense bass
groove. There’s also a fair amount of ballads, including the
light Paul Simon meditation “Still Crazy After All These
Years.”

Over the years, Mehldau has produced a catalogue of trio records
that may someday be considered classics. This recording, however,
reveals nothing new, and will probably be remembered more as the
follow-up to Largo. Nonetheless, Anything Goes is
inspired, original and entirely Brad Mehldau.

Music Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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