Brad Mehldau - Paranoid Android


After attending an intimate concert by the Brad Mehldau Trio at LantarenVenster last Tuesday (March 7th), I thought it was time for another post about this great, innovative pianist and composer.

They started the concert with a ‘Hey Joe’ cover: not my personal favorite, but a great way for the not-so-trained-jazz listener to discover what makes a well known piece ‘jazz’.

Brad Mehldau is known for turning popular tunes into jazz, as you can also hear in today’s song ‘Paranoid Andriod' (Radiohead) from 'Largo’: recorded in 2001 and the first record of Mehldau that departs from either the piano trio or solo format.

Brad Mehldau - Largo

Mehldau says on his site: “I heard a lot of terrific singer-songwriters there for the first time – people like Rufus Wainright, Fiona Apple, Elliot Smith and Aimee Mann. I got re-introduced to how beautiful a good pop song can be through hearing them. Its depth is more about pairing something down, chiseling it into a strong, succinct statement – very different than jazz, which for me is often about going out on a limb and staying there.”

Brad Mehldau - Piano
Larry Grenadier - Bass
Matt Chamberlain - Drums
Victor Indrizzo - Percussion
Jon Brion  - Guitar, Guitar Synth, Piano Percussion

'Goodbye Storyteller (For Fred Myrow)', by Brad Mehldau

Yesterday, I ordered tickets for the upcoming concert of the Brad Mehldau Trio (Feb. 28th, 2012, here in my hometown Rotterdam).
So I thought it was time for another beautiful piece by this 41 year old American, this time from his 1999 solo album ‘Elegiac Cycle’.

'elegiac Cycle', by Brad Mehldau

Brad Mehldau explains in the liner notes his fascination for elegies:
"…I’ve always been attracted to elegiac works of art, that mourn so many kinds of loss, from the most profound to the most prosaic death of them all - what the French aptly call ‘la petite mort’. There are concrete examples that clearly mourn the loss of a person or people: Musical compositions like Charles Mingus’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, or John Coltrane’s ‘Alabama’. But there are so many works that aren’t elegies proper, yet are elegiac in character. Much of Brahms’ late music, for example. Often, we find an elegiac strain in the late period of any artist’s output: the poignancy of Bill Evans’ 1977 rendition of ‘You Must Believe In Spring' or Chet Baker's achingly ironic late take on 'Blame It On My Youth’. Lamenting the loss of springtime and youth. 

Alas, life is short, art is long. Great music packs a primordial punch. And when the wind is knocked out of you, something great takes place: You get to feel your own mortality. The role of time is crucial. Music doesn’t just represent time, it moves through time, and the listener experiences that passing. What’s the feeling? That tingling in your stomach, that sweet ache in your gut, that tickly weakness that creeps over the body when you’re pulled into the music? It’s a kind of death-feeling, in a place where ecstasy and mortality-fear overlap. Rilke told us in one of his elegies that our perception of beauty is just the beginning of terror.

Dying, being remembered, music sings an elegy to itself, beautifying the ‘everyday’ loss around us, showing us how intimate we can be with death. So an elegy can have this purpose: to celebrate those very things that make us mortal…”

'Paris', by Brad Mehldau

I don’t own or listen to a lot of contemporary jazz myself, so I’m a little outside my comfort zone here, but Brad Mehldau (1970) often uses tones that touch (or should I say ‘hit’) me.

This solo track ‘Paris’ is ‘a piece of transcendental beauty. It starts with a deep, delicate melody, that continuously grows and expands until exploding into a shocking, rock-classical arpeggio (a mix of Radiohead and Rachmaninoff…)’.

The 11 compositions on ‘Places’ (from 2000, on some tracks with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy)  were conceived on the road, and only midway through did Mehldau realize that there was a connection. The designated theme is travel; each selection bears the name of a place or mood.

The titles in themselves mean nothing as far as the content of the music is concerned, or so he writes in another lengthy, provocative liner note. Rather, the album is about the constancy of his personality and musical language, taking all of your personal mental baggage with you wherever you travel.

(P.S. I’ve posted this track earlier, on November 19th 2010, but I thought it would fit nice in the Paris-theme-week)

Brad Mehldau - Piano

Brad Mehldau - Places

'Paris', by Brad Mehldau

I don’t own or listen to a lot of contemporary jazz myself, so I’m a little outside my comfort zone here, but Brad Mehldau (1970) often uses tones that touch (or should I say ‘hit’) me.

This solo track ‘Paris’ is ‘a piece of transcendental beauty. It starts with a deep, delicate melody, that continuously grows and expands until exploding into a shocking, rock-classical arpeggio (a mix of Radiohead and Rachmaninoff…)’.

The 11 compositions on ‘Places’ (from 2000, on some tracks with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy)  were conceived on the road, and only midway through did Mehldau realize that there was a connection. The designated theme is travel; each selection bears the name of a place or mood.

The titles in themselves mean nothing as far as the content of the music is concerned, or so he writes in another lengthy, provocative liner note. Rather, the album is about the constancy of his personality and musical language, taking all of your personal mental baggage with you wherever you travel.


Brad Mehldau, Places