Brad Mehldau

Wednesday, April 13, through Saturday, April 16; Jazz at the Bistro (3536 Washington Avenue)

The piano trio has proven to be one of jazz's most durable and versatile formats, accommodating myriad personalities and diverse styles from honky-tonk to classically elegant while serving as a common proving ground for each successive generation of piano players. At 34, Brad Mehldau is already one of the most critically acclaimed jazz pianists of his peer group, though perhaps he's known more for his interpretations of songs by Radiohead, the Beatles and Nick Drake than for his straight-ahead jazz work.

With his longtime colleagues, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy, Mehldau has developed his personal approach to trio playing over ten years and a series of "Art of the Trio" recordings. It's an aesthetic that's as much cerebral as visceral, as indebted to European classical music as to the blues, capable of developing variegated soundscapes ranging from icy and spare to lushly romantic and back again.

Though he has performed songs by Thelonious Monk and possesses a formidable improvisational technique that's been compared to Cecil Taylor, Mehldau's a deep thinker, not a playful swinger or a freeform firebreather; his voice is more akin to Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley or Bill Evans than to Horace Silver, Red Garland or Bobby Timmons. With four nights to stretch out at the Bistro amid a string of one-nighters and split-bill concerts on their spring schedule, Mehldau and his bandmates should have ample opportunity to think some deep thoughts indeed.

Sets at 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. each night. Reserved seats are $30, with a $5 food/drink minimum per person. Call Metrotix at 314-534-1111 or 800-293-5949.