Brad Mehldau, Solo Piano at Sotheby

AAJ Staff By

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Submitted on behalf of Michael Mellia

Brad Mehlau's agenda soon became apparent at the 7/25 Sotheby's solo concert. He did not show up intending to play classical music, jazz, or even pop. Brad sat down at the piano and began to play music- that Platonic notion of music in its purest form that often eludes classification. Indeed, aside from the fact that Brad played melodies and improvisations, one cannot provide a description that would allow a listener to understand his highly original concept without actually hearing it firsthand.
This quality, i.e. music that can be classified in no other way than simply "music," can be used to describe Miles Davis' various groups throughout his career, as well as the later projects of Duke Ellington. Certainly Brad's knowledge of classical music theory shines through in his solo playing, but it is not without heavy inflections of pop and the entire jazz tradition. Playing standards with sonata-like introductions and interludes, thick contrapuntal passages with improvised lines in both hands, a deep, meditative sense of stride piano, and fluid romantic lines demonstrate a concept developed far beyond his peers. Exploring all registers of the piano, Brad is able to flawlessly execute any two ideas he can conceive- simultaneously.
Brad himself cites Keith Jarrett as an influence, but that does not take away from his originality. After all, Keith practically invented the improvised solo concert with such monumental recordings as "The Kohln Concert" and "Facing You", both of which cannot be described other than "music for piano". Mehldau's sense of time, rythmn, and harmony are completely personal, and although traces of his teacher Fred Hersch show through on occasion, Brad has definitely found his own voice. Realizing that "heads" of tunes are simply vehicles, Brad Mehldau has wisely chosen to modernize his repertoire, just as the be-boppers of the 40's and 50's improvised over popular Broadway show tunes of the era. Sotheby's jazz aficionados were lucky enough to experience Brad's interpretations of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," Robert Plant's "29 Palms," the Beatles' "Mother Nature's Son," as well as classics such as Thelonious' own "Monk's Dream." After listening to Brad Mehldau sit behind the piano, it soon becomes clear that his goal is to play music, to play the piano itself well, rather than to become locked into any one genre. His four "Art of the Trio" albums have already documented his development over the past seven years. As his style continues to evolve, watch out for "Progression: The Art of the Trio, Volume V."


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