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Brad Mehldau is one of those sensitive types. The pianist loves those painfully romantic songs that brim with large doses of sentimentality, and he prefers the quieter, more reflective feel of the trio format. But there’s always something a bit unsettling and forlorn about his playing, especially when he composes his own emotionally gripping tunes (“Resignation,” “Trailer Park Ghost”), which tend to betray a degree of inner turmoil. Mehldau is a deft improvisationalist, and—though heavily influenced by Western Europe, and with a seeming disregard for anything with soul—he exudes more punk attitude than Sex Mob could ever muster. Mehldau loves his edgy pop—he does a masterful rendition of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)”—and can talk at length about how ’70s rock bands such as Steppenwolf and Supertramp influenced his angst-ridden solo-piano album, Elegiac Cycle. But he’ll never pander to popular tastes. For the past four years, Mehldau and his longstanding collaborators (bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy) have been releasing the critically acclaimed, albeit pretentiously titled, Art of the Trio series. The albums highlight the group’s magnificent interplay, and, more specifically, Mehldau’s languid, florid improvisations, which can often reach the point of gaudiness. So, after attending tonight’s performance, you might come away with a better understanding of what Thelonious Monk had in mind when he used the phrase “Ugly Beauty.” Mehldau and trio perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Barns of Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna. $18. (703) 218-6500. (John Murph)