During the '90s and into the 2000s, Brad Mehldau was one among a plethora of young jazz pianists who rose to prominence. He is one of the more absorbing and thoughtful practitioners within that idiom, and he is receptive to the idea of using material from the rock era (Paul McCartney's "Blackbird," for example). Though Mehldau's training is primarily classical, his interest in jazz began early. He played in the Hall High School jazz band of Hartford, Connecticut, winning the Berklee College of Music's Best All-Around Musician Award while still in his junior year of high school. He studied jazz at New York's New School for Social Research under Fred Hersch, Junior Mance, Kenny Werner, and Jimmy Cobb. Cobb soon hired him to play in his band, Cobb's Mob, and Mehldau also played and recorded with the Joshua Redman Quartet before forming his own trio in 1994 and recording his first Warner Bros. album, Introducing Brad Mehldau, in 1995. Art of the Trio, Vol. 1 followed in 1997, with the next two volumes in the series appearing over the following months. Two years later, Mehldau returned with Elegiac Cycle, as well as Art of the Trio, Vol. 4: Back at the Vanguard. Places followed in 2000, consisting of all-original compositions focusing on various cities, hence the title of the album.