Nonesuch Records releases Brad Mehldau’s 10 Years Solo Live eight-LP vinyl box set October 16, 2015. The set is culled from 19 live recordings made over a decade of the pianist’s European solo concerts and is divided into four thematic subsets of four sides each: Dark/Light, The Concert, Intermezzo/Rückblick, and E Minor/E Major. The complete track listing is on the next page. 10 Years Solo Live will be released digitally and on CD the following month; pre-orders are available now at nonesuch.com and include in instant download of the album track “Waltz for J. B.”
As Mehldau explains in his liner note for the album, “Although it totals around 300 minutes, the order of songs is not arbitrary, and I have tried to tell a story from beginning to end in the way I’ve sequenced it.” He continues, “There is a theme and character given to each four-side set.”
Of the Dark/Light theme, he says, “In concerts, I find that I contrast dark and light emotional energies and highlight the way they depend on each other. Sides 1–4 focus on this dichotomy in pairs, beginning with the dark energy of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Dream Brother,’ which is followed by the grace of Lennon/McCartney’s ‘Blackbird.’” He further says, “Although the songs on Sides 5–8 (The Concert) come from different concerts, on this set, I arranged them in a sequence similar to that I would perform in a single concert in 2010–11,” he continues.
“The third set could be thought of as Intermezzo and Rückblick–like in character. I’m thinking of the penultimate movement of Brahms’s Third Piano Sonata with that title. Rückblick means a look backward, perhaps a reappraisal. Brahms’s Intermezzo movement was a look back at what had taken place in his Sonata before moving to the final movement. Here, the listener is invited to look back to music that was recorded 10 or more years ago, in 2004 and 2005.” Mehldau explains that his approach to the sequence of the fourth set “is to focus on the rub between the keys of E minor and E major. I return to the theme of dark and light from the first set, now allowing the listener to focus on how ‘dark’ and ‘light’ might manifest in tonality.”
Brad Mehldau played in a number of different ensembles, including label mate Joshua Redman’s quartet, before becoming a bandleader himself in the 1990s. The Brad Mehldau Trio made eight recordings for Warner Bros., including the five Art of the Trio albums with former drummer Jorge Rossy (released as a boxed set by Nonesuch in 2011). The pianist’s years with Nonesuch have been equally productive, beginning in 2004 with the solo disc Live in Tokyo and including five trio records—Day Is Done, House on Hill, Live, Ode, and Where Do You Start—as well as a collaboration with soprano Renée Fleming, Love Sublime; a chamber ensemble album, Highway Rider; two collaborations with label mate Pat Metheny, Metheny Mehldau and Quartet; a CD/DVD set of live solo performances, Live in Marciac; and collaborations with Kevin Hays and Patrick Zimmerli on Modern Music. Last year, Nonesuch released the debut from Mehldau’s electric duo with Mark Guiliana, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon. He also produced Redman’s 2013 release Walking Shadows.
Mehldau has performed around the world at a steady pace for 25 years, with his trio, with other collaborators, and as a solo pianist, building a large and loyal audience. “It is actually strange, this whole business of performance. It is a direct, intense kind of empathy with a group of total strangers that lasts around 90 minutes. And then, it’s over, and everyone goes home. I go back to a hotel room and go to bed,” the pianist says in his Ten Years Solo Live note. “Something happened, but what was most vital about it can’t really be put in words. It is sweet, kind of bittersweet. In any case, it is not enough to say that the different audiences were important for the creation of this music. They were absolutely necessary; they were pivotal. Without those audiences, this music would not exist in the way it does.”