Jazz  Piano Solo
Elan Mehler Trouble In Mind SSC1713 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberSSC1713
labelSunnyside Records
Release date23/02/2024
Tags: jazz

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      Description hide

      There is music that can only be created under certain conditions. As much preparation and work that goes into studio recordings for a crafted, perfected sound, there are recordings that resonate because of their spontaneity and natural feeling. On his new solo recording, Trouble In Mind, pianist Elan Mehler presents an extraordinary collection of music full of pathos that could only be caught at that moment in time at a recording studio in New Orleans.

      The Boston-born, New York City based Mehler has become well known for his fluid touch on piano and his skilled bandleading. He is also well known for his record label, Newvelle Records, that caters to vinyl lovers with series of recordings covering a wide range of jazz and creative music. It happened to be during the culmination of Mehler’s work on a series of recordings by New Orleanian artists that Trouble In Mind was born.

      Having already recorded albums by soul singer Irma Thomas and blues legend Little Freddie King in New Orleans, Mehler was returning to the Crescent City in order to capture the late, great pianist Ellis Marsalis on tape at Esplanade Studios, Misha Kachkachishvili’s gorgeous church transformed into a state-of-the-art recording studio. It was on Mehler’s descent into New Orleans that his plane was diverted to Austin, Texas, where he spent nine hours before he could arrive in New Orleans.

      After a sleepless night and a day of recording, Mehler found the studio empty, except for his engineer and co-producer Ben Chace and a lone piano. It was Chace who prompted Mehler to take a seat and let the tape roll to capture the performance presented here. Along with the physical strain, Mehler was also in the midst of a breakup and under the same uneasiness the world was experiencing in February 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was just beginning to loom.

      The music that flowed from Mehler’s hands were pieces that he had lived with and that he had command over. They were inspired by his surroundings and his feelings, all caught up in that special moment in the studio. A moment that could never be recreated, leaving a ragged but entrancing performance as Mehler stood at the mouth of the abyss.

      The recording begins with Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” Mehler taking the theme of the well-known ballad and giving it a spacious and circuitous retelling. Mehler’s “Esplanade Blues” was improvised on the spot, a true manifestation of creativity and emotion, while Charles Mingus’s “Alice’s Wonderland” blends the brightness and darkness so emblematic of the composer into a bittersweet blues. Having just taught the song to a student, Bill Frisell’s “Justice and Honor” came naturally to Mehler’s fingers as a delicate folk-like psalm.

      The rhapsodic “There at The Heart” is a lovingly crafted original by Mehler for his daughter. Richard M. Jones’s “Trouble In Mind” not only gives the recording a theme of music but also gives an example of how the music can be a perfect release. Ellington’s “In My Solitude” is done as a slow meditation, while the Green and Heyman chestnut “Out of Nowhere” blossoms from quietude into a lazily joyous air.

      Mehler’s “I Should Have Prayed for Rain” displays a balance of demure hesitance and playful carelessness. The Rodgers and Hart classic “My Funny Valentine” receives an intriguing reharmonized reinterpretation and Ellington’s “Come Sunday” was begging to be played in the studio’s church setting. The recording concludes with Mehler’s “Scheme for Thought,” a rich piece showcasing the composer’s contemplative and harmonically advanced original compositional style.

      The recording of Trouble In Mind found Elan Mehler exposed in a way that had never been captured. His emotional and physical state added to a sensibility that runs throughout this remarkable music.

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • 1.In A Sentimental Mood04:43
      • 2.Esplanade Blues03:27
      • 3.Alice's Wonderland04:12
      • 4.Justice and Honor04:24
      • 5.There at the Heart03:30
      • 6.Trouble in Mind04:07
      • 7.In My Solitude05:01
      • 8.Out Of Nowhere04:31
      • 9.I Should Have Prayed For Rain04:19
      • 10.My Funny Valentine05:10
      • 11.Come Sunday04:33
      • 12.Scheme For Thought05:08
      • Total:53:05