In this documentary, Brad Mehldau states this about his trio with Jorge Rossy and Larry Grenadier:

It’s pretty specific what I’m doing, I think, especially with the trio. We have the regular pulse that’s going on, and then we have another pulse that would seem to be unrelated to that. And the idea is to make your phrases and your melodies in that other pulse, in that other tempo, but the time is still going by--just as slow or fast--from the first tempo. So you have two different tempos going on at the same time, but your form and your shape is still the same. So I think with the time, it’s always a matter of retaining that form, you know? And that’s sort of what makes it interesting to me, is if you can retain the form of what you’re originally doing and step out of the time--but always have it in mind. So two things going on at once, I guess.

I believe this sort of technique can be heard throughout his solo on The Way You Look Tonight from The Art of the Trio Vol. Two.

How is this technique implemented in practice? That is, what does it specifically entail? I'm looking for a detailed explanation of this technique and I'm exclusively interested in the manner in which Brad's trio used it. I'd really like the explanation to be supported by examples (just citing times from his solos would be plenty).

  • An answer might entail explaining which instruments play which tempos (or whether they all play the second pulse), whether the second pulse is a different tempo or a different beat grouping of the same tempo, whether the second pulse has any mathematical or musical relation to the first pulse, how long the second pulse occurs, whether the second pulse is the same throughout the entire song, etc.
    – jdjazz
    Apr 19, 2020 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


It's terrific. I'm not familiar with his music.

I can't hear the other musicians establishing a second pulse at any point.

When Mehldau dislocates himself from their pulse I can sometimes see how it's done, but not always.

At 1'44", near the start of his solo, he gives the impression of a different pulse. (The lower clef is what the bass plays.)

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The three emphatic F's and the three emphatic D's sound like counts 1, 2 & 3 of a bar, and counts 1, 2 & 3 of the next bar, and he seems to fit three fast 'bars' into two of the band's. But as you can see, his notes have a precise mathematical relationship with the primary pulse.

Later in the solo his pulse is sporadic: unrelated to the primary one. There are snatches of those emphatic crotchet triplets, but they aren't locked to the primary pulse as they were at first. I've no idea how he arrives back so neatly at the end (7'15"), but he does signal the approaching 'coincide' with snatches of the head.

Not the in-depth analysis you wanted but it's late! You evidently transcribe jazz more than I do. Korngold's Sea Hawk and Ellington's Such Sweet Thunder were probably the hardest transcriptions I've done and it would take me a long time to get to grips with this stuff. Thanks for introducing me to it.

  • 1
    This answer is a really big step in exactly the direction I'm looking for. +1 especially for the awesome, concrete example!
    – jdjazz
    Apr 21, 2020 at 0:54

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