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Being There, Here

Being There, Here

Elan Mehler Trio

Label: Challenge Records
Format: CD
Barcode: 0608917335224
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Catalog number: CR 73352
Releasedate: 10-05-13
When Elan Mehler plays, people stop what they are doing and listen in rapt attention and when he plays he creates the sonic equivalent of magic. He can make the piano sing - with grace, elegance, wit and an enchanting, hypnotic beauty.
  • Being There, Here is his debut for the Challenge label with an acoustic piano trio recording
  • “Mehler’s touch is as nuanced as Bill Evans’s, and his phrasing draws on both jazz and classical music without directly importing licks from either. The subdued certainties of his playing bring a crowded room to total silence.” –John Fordham, The Guardian
  • Called “disorienting and fascinating” by MOJO magazine and a “...refreshingly slow answer to our trashy nanosecond pop culture” by Time Out London, Elan Mehler, the pianist and star discovery of Radio 1 veteran Gilles Peterson
  • His debut studio album "Scheme For Thought" (2007 on Brownswood) called a "...work of mellow magnificence" by Time Out and garnering a four star review from MOJO Magazine, was selected as a top ten record of 2007 by the editor of Jazzwise Magazine. 
  • "The After Suite," (2009 on Brownswood) "a masterpiece with a capital 'M,"  --All About Jazz, was hailed as "...positively rhapsodic" by Time Out. 
Elan Mehler – ‘Being There, Here’

Elan Mehler is a gifted young jazz pianist who is turning heads with his music. That’s not surprising because when he plays he creates the sonic equivalent of magic – something that world-renowned DJ, label boss, and talent spotter, Gilles Peterson, can readily attest to. While on vacation he first heard the six-foot-eight Israeli-American playing in a Swiss hotel at a spa resort and promptly added Mehler to his roster at the Brownswood label. Five years on and Mehler, who has three studio albums under his belt - 2007’s ‘Scheme For Thought,’ 2009’s ‘The After Suite’ and his 2010 collaboration with singer Adam McBride-Smith ‘Half Seas Over’– now makes his debut for the Challenge label with an acoustic piano trio recording.

‘Being There, Here’ captures Mehler’s threesome (Tod Hedrick on bass with drummer Max Goldman) playing in Therme Vals, Switzerland, the very spa hotel where the pianist was first ‘discovered’ performing by Gilles Peterson. The ambience of their surroundings – peaceful and reflective - is vastly different from a normal jazz club date and as a result Mehler’s largely introspective repertoire mirrors this fact. The set opens with a dreamy rendition of Duke Ellington’s immortal ‘In A Sentimental Mood.’ It’s the first of three classic Ellington songs that are present on the album - the other two are ‘Reflections In D,’ which is reconfigured as a meditative nocturne, and ‘Solitude,’ a haunting ballad that closes the album.

Mehler also demonstrates a blend of wit, imagination and originality with distinctive versions of Sy Oliver’s ‘Yes Indeed,’ and Thelonious Monk’s ‘Bemsha Swing’ while a dreamy rendition of another well-loved standard, Victor Young & Edward Heyman’s ‘When I Fall In Love,’ highlights the pianist’s crystalline right-hand fi ligrees and lush tonal shading. The pianist also shows an intuitive understanding of the bossa nova style with his slow-burning take on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Brazilian classic, ‘Insensatez.’

But Mehler isn’t a jazz musician whose repertoire is dominated by standards. The album’s title track was originally an acoustic guitar instrumental written by Matt Joy, a songwriter friend of Mehler’s based in Nashville, Tennessee (the two played together in a high school jazz trio and more recently, the pianist recorded Joy’s ‘Factory’ on ‘The After Suite’). It’s a reflective mood piece characterised by highly intuitive musical interplay from Mehler and his trio, which has been together now for eight years (Tod Hedrick, by the way, has played on all of Mehler’s previous recordings for Brownswood while Max Goldman was present on ‘The After Suite’ and ‘Half Seas Over,’).

More downbeat is ‘I Dream A Highway,’ a slice of atmospheric Americana written by alternative country stars Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and which Mehler first deconstructed on, ‘The After Suite.’ Here, the song becomes a hushed, stately hymnal that gradually builds in intensity and captures the spirit and stark simplicity of Welch’s original. By contrast, Mehler’s self-penned ‘Waltz Ferwerda’ – a swirling stream of sophisticated chords and dextrous right-hand improvisation rendered in a lively 3/4 tempo - shows another facet of the pianist’s musical character. On ‘Being There, Here,’ Elan Mehler and his trio acknowledge the jazz tradition while doing something distinctly individual – there might be faint echoes of Bill Evans, perhaps, or Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau in the DNA of Mehler’s music but he’s mature enough to be his own man. And he can make the piano sing – with grace, elegance, wit and an enchanting, hypnotic beauty.

-Charles Waring
Charles Waring is the jazz columnist for Record Collector and a regular contributor to MOJO magazine. He’s also written for Wax Poetics, Shook and Blues & Soul and is co-owner of www.soulandjazzandfunk.com
“Mehler’s touch is as nuanced as Bill Evans’s, and his phrasing draws on both jazz and classical music without directly importing licks from either.  The subdued certainties of his playing bring a crowded room to total silence.”
--John Fordham, The Guardian

Elan Mehler grew up outside of Boston and started playing piano and composing at the age of 6.  A graduate of the NYU Music program where he studied with jazz with pianists Frank Kimbrough and Don Friedman and classical with Deirdre O’Donahue.  In 2000 Elan spent a year in Paris being the house pianist at the “Malone’s Bar.”  Which he credits as the largest piece in his musical education.  On returning to NYC Elan formed his first trio and performed at the Knitting Factory, Tonic, Smalls, Barbes, The Elbow Room, The Living Room and any other room that had a piano and would let him in.  In 2006 he met BBC Radio Presenter and Record Producer Gilles Peterson at a solo piano gig in Switzerland and was subsequently signed to his fledgling Brownswood Records.

Called “disorienting and fascinating” by MOJO magazine and a “...refreshingly slow answer to our trashy nanosecond pop culture” by Time Out London, Elan Mehler, the pianist and star discovery of Radio 1 veteran Gilles Peterson has released three albums on Brownswood Recordings.  2007's "Scheme For Thought" called a "...work of mellow magnificence" by Time Out and garnering a four star review from MOJO Magazine, was selected as a top ten record of 2007 by the editor of Jazzwise Magazine.  2009's "The After Suite," "a masterpiece with a capital 'M,"  --All About Jazz, was hailed as "...positively rhapsodic" by Time Out.  2010's collaboration with the Oklahoman singer-songwriter Adam McBride-Smith, Half Seas Over, built  "...a productive relationship between two genres of music that few jazz artists other than Bill Frisell have managed to splice..." The Guardian, received a four star review from Uncut Magazine and  was called an "immediate contemporary classic" by Rockerilla. 

Elan recently signed with Challenge Records and his album Being There, Here includes trio standards featuring Tod Hedrick and Max Goldman.