Message from Brad: New Tour with Chris Thile

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Message from Brad: New Tour with Chris Thile

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Hi Everyone, it's Brad and I wanted to let you know I'm excited about some upcoming touring coming up with the stellar mandonlisist, singer, songwriter and improviser, Chis Thile. Chris is quite busy now with his relatively new role as MC of Prarie Home Companion, but has found time to perform with me, and I'm very excited. We'll play a lot of material from our new record together. Our first date is in Town Hall this coming Wednesday, and the rest of the dates are here - we'll be in the States first and then later in Europe.

Chris and I wrote some original music for the record, and the sheet music for two of mine, Talahassee Junction and The Watcher, is now available here.

Thanks everyone for your support. We are praying for and wishing everyone strength and grace in all these areas being hit by the extreme weather. Peace and Love.

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A Note from Brad

Hi everyone from Brad. I hope your summer has gone well. I’d like to announce, a bit late, the release of a record from guitarist Peter Bernstein that I’m very proud to be part of. It’s called Signs Live! and was recorded at Dizzy’s in New York City with Christian McBride on bass and Greg Hutchinson on drums. Peter was one of my musical peers when I first arrived in New York City years ago in 1988, taught me quite a bit through playing with him, and remains a strong influence on me. Pete’s continuous commitment to melody, song and storytelling a story are all in abundance here, in a great set of music that includes signature compositions of his like Jive Coffee and the groover, Dragonfly, as well as some less familiar ones, like Hidden Pockets.  It was a thrill to play in a rhythm section with Christian and Greg, whose musical spirit, imagination and virtuosity are on display here.. 

With a lot of other people, I’ve been shocked by what happened in Charlottesville last week. My wife had just introduced Roxanne Gay’s book, Hunger, and I was reading it the last few weeks. Now I’m a new fan of hers. If you missed her piece on Charlottesville a few days ago, I recommend reading it. Then, a few days ago, we were horrified to hear about the attacks in Barcelona. Many of us jazz musicians have a special affinity for that romantic, passionate city, and formed close early bonds playing at places like Jamboree right on the Rambla, close to where the attacks were. We wish everyone there strength, and I know that that beautiful city will continue to work its magic and prosper. 

As for Charlottesville, I stand with the many people who were dismayed by Trump's verbally equivocating Neo-nazis and those protesting against Neo-nazis. I do not accept this moral relativism. We all saw the very real violence that came from the Neo-nazi camp, after all. Trump’s own amorality is a function of his essentially narcissistic make up, and his deep stupidity. He does not have the imagination to generate empathy for others, and therefore will never do anything good for the U.S. or the world. That could change only with a radical transformation of his character. I suppose it’s possible. In the meantime, we are biding our time until he is impeached or leaves.

I am not completely pessimistic because I believe that what we are witnessing in both events - Charlottesville and Barcelona - is the death-throes of ideologies that are already obsolete. This is not to make light of the violence. But there is a much bigger shift towards harmony and inclusivity. There is more communication taking place about race in America, and, as we’ve seen, people are being held accountable for racist acts in a more open light. This violent backlash, and the sham presidency of Trump that encouraged it - cannot reverse a course which is already in place. I am humbled by all of this. There is a lot to learn, if I listen. The actions I take, accordingly, will reverberate - my children will listen and be informed by them, for example. Yesterday someone shared a quote with me from Goethe: “Choose well. Your choice is brief, and yet endless."

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Inspirational Original Compositions

Brad Mehldau Trio, Barbican, London

Financial Times
By: Mike Hobbart

Inspirational original compositions made up the bulk of this set from the influential pianist’s trio.

Brad Mehldau’s first piano-trio releases set pithy reconstructions of Thelonious Monk alongside elegiac readings of Beatles classics, and made the work of Radiohead and Nick Drake acceptable material for the jazz repertoire.

But at this performance, the first cover, Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right by Me”, came as an ovation-winning encore, while the meat of the performance presented new compositions with working titles — “a blues, sort of” opened, there was “a waltz, sort of”, and the second number was a rhythmic figure worked out by drummer Jeff Ballard: “I came up with a melody,” said Mehldau.

Not that there was anything slapdash about the material. The themes integrated precisely voiced block piano chords with acutely matched thrums from Larry Grenadier’s bass, while bittersweet melodies danced over counterpoint riffs, and unison lines appeared as if by magic. The only criticism was that the band seemed a little stiff in the theme when compared to the interplay that followed.

Mehldau’s influence on contemporary jazz piano is not limited to expanding the repertoire. His bittersweet left-hand melodies, clusters of dense mid-range chords and ability to conjoin the angularity of Monk with classical romance are a source of inspiration for the current generation of jazz pianists.

Here, the Mehldau aesthetic dazzled from the outset. The first number compressed Monk, Bach and the blues into a functioning whole, the second was full of rhythmic twiddles and that majestic left hand, and the third was a waltz with a pretty theme supported by a swish of drums — the piece sparked to life when the pulse tightened mid-solo.

At first, the highlight moments were all Mehldau’s. His first solo delivered a succession of mesmerisingly minute variations on a tricky theme, while on the minor-key “Strange Gift” his blues inflections were soulful and cliché free.

Drummer Ballard delivered a series of solos in his ungainly yet effective style, but it was Grenadier, working closely with the pianist throughout, whose solos roused the crowd later in the set. The first, on the rhythmically unusual “Green M&Ms”, was melodic and agile; the second followed the shape of the lovely Mehldau ballad that ensured the encore. “It’s the first ballad I’ve written that I want to play on,” said Mehldau. “And I’m 46.”  Mike Hobart

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Mehldau On Brilliant Form

Brad Meldhau on brilliant form at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, plus all the best jazz and folk of 2017

The Telegraph
By: Ivan Hewett

Brad Mehldau is an aristocrat among jazz pianists. He doesn’t stoop to dazzling finger-work to seize our attention, or reach into the piano’s innards to make odd sounds (a practice that seems to be almost  de rigueur among jazz pianists these days). When he loped on to the stage last night, he welcomed us to “this beautiful and very spiritual venue”, gesturing round the lofty space of St Andrew’s Hall. 

This doesn’t mean the gig was austere or lacking musical rewards. It’s just that the rewards were in small subtleties that might pass you by, if you weren’t playing very close attention.

In the first number Gentle John (a homage to jazz guitarist John Scofield) the restless descending bass under the melody was balanced by an equally restless rising bass in the “middle eight”, but Mehldau didn’t make a big deal of this. One was aware of it subliminally, as part of the number’s gentle charm. 

This was a number from the trio’s recent album Blues and Ballads, a return for Mehldau to acoustic jazz after a long excursus into electronic keyboards. One sensed a man savouring the pleasures of a straightforward blues sequence and a curving melody, after a long absence. One would never have thought jazz piano’s stern philosopher could write a delightful almost-sentimental ballad, with strong echoes of Bill Evans. Yet it duly arrived, in the penultimate number, enlivened with a shapely, classically restrained solo from bassist Larry Grenadier (he and drummer Jeff Ballard share Mehldau’s distaste for empty virtuosity).

At the opposite pole was a new number, as yet untitled, which played with a very dark rising four-chord sequence. It was ingenious, to be sure, and the final breaking out into harmonic sunlight was brilliantly stage-managed, but the pay-off didn’t compensate for the overall dourness. Much more rewarding was Green M & M’s, based on a rushing five-beat bass pattern which – unlike the static jazz bass patterns one so often hears – danced through a dozen harmonies in as many seconds. The virtuosity with which all three players flung opposing rhythms against this pattern was simply astounding. Just as rewarding were the supple and harmonically searching variations Mehldau conjured on Lennon & McCartney’s And I Love Her. Here Mehldau often spun two improvised lines at once, showing that his acquaintance with Bach is now rubbing off on his jazz. Like all the best artists, Mehldau never stops growing.

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Brad Mehldau Trio: 'Searching, storytelling jazz at its finest'

Brad Mehldau Trio Review: 'Searching, Storytelling Jazz At It's Finest'

The Guardian
By: John Fordham

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker maintain that if two scenes in a show can’t be linked by a “but” or a “therefore” then you can’t tell an interesting story. It seems to be a conviction that pianist Brad Mehldau, one of contemporary jazz’s great improvising tale-tellers, feels deeply. Mehldau is a master of bringing familiar-sounding narratives to forks in the road, and of then unveiling the tangential anecdotes, disputes and conversations that follow from taking new diversions. He reminded a sold-out audience at London’s Barbican of that seductive art in a riveting two-hour set, the penultimate gig of a brief UK tour.

Unlike the group’s recent Blues and Ballads covers album, the programme was dominated by original pieces. Mehldau perched sideways on a stool in habitual contemplative posture, gently rubbing his hands together, watching his partners for action. Drummer Jeff Ballard began a brittle medium groove and Larry Grenadier a throbbing bass vamp, and Mehldau set off on a sharply accented, melodically roaming piano line, with hints of blues phrasing – he later announced it as “a blues, of sorts”. As usual, he played peering at the floor, as if clues to his next phrase were inscribed there. Bursts of terse linear playing were divided by gifted contrapuntal improvisations, with boldly contrasting left-hand figures spinning off the increasingly urgent propositions of the right. Ballard played a shapely percussion break of crisp, hooky episodes, before the piece wound up on a brusque three-note snap.

Mehldau announced “a waltz, of sorts” that proceeded in a succession of lurching and gently eddying figures marked out by Ballard’s taut brushwork, and then played Strange Gift – a slowly rising left-hand line shared with Grenadier’s bass, with a rising Spanish-tinged melody punctuated by repeated single notes and trills. A fast theme with a skipping left-hand figure was followed by a ballad (“I’ve finally written one, at the age of 46, that I can get behind”) that began close to the shape of a classic Broadway song, and brought an evocative Grenadier solo of gracefully linked melodic shapes and surging double-time. Being Mehldau’s kind of ballad, of course, it kept changing. It grew bluesier, then swinging, then veered into a passage of contrasting dissonances – strange, ringing chords, slow-hit poundings, glassy clinks.

Three encores embraced fast bebop, country blues and a less ambiguous ballad, with the classic It’s All Right With Me delivered in streams and fragments over a fast bass walk that became a superb bass solo of vaulting intervals, blues turns and unexpected swing licks. This version of Mehldau's Trio is 12 years old now, but both its repertoire and its methods stay memorably fresh.

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Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile Perform on CBS This Morning

On December 10, CBS This Morning featured Brad and Chris Thile performing selections for their upcoming Nonesuch album. The album features both original material and interpretations from a wide range of songwriters. Click on the videos below to watch the live TV performances. For more information and to purchase the upcoming album, due January 27, 2017, please visit the Album page.


On "CBS This Morning: Saturday," Chris Thile and Mehldau perform "The Old Shade Tree."


On "CBS This Morning: Saturday," Chris Thile and Mehldau perform "Independence Day."

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PBS News Hour Video Features Brad and Joshua Redman Discussing Jazz Improvisation

Brad and Nonesuch labelmate Joshua Redman are featured in the PBS News Hour Feature for a new article, video and podcast. Following is text from the piece and video below.

Watch jazz greats Redman and Mehldau share a musical ‘conversation’

Jazzmen Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau have been teaming up — Redman on saxophone, Mehldau on piano — then going their separate musical ways for 20 years or more, ever since they first crossed paths at the Village Vanguard and other New York City jazz clubs in the early 1990s.

Even as their separate and highly successful individual careers flourished over the years, their shared musical and personal bonds seemed always to pull them back together again, to record together. Tour together. To engage in what they call the “conversation” of jazz, improvisation and instinct guiding their way.

And so they have again come together, late in 2016. There is a new album, “Nearness,” a mix of jazz standards and their own compositions. And a recently completed concert tour, centered largely in Europe, but with its launch at New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center earlier this fall. Hours ahead of that performance, they shared a version of Mehldau’s song “Old West” with the NewsHour, performed for us in the privacy of the Steinway Piano Showroom in Manhattan.

You can learn much more about the artists and their creative process in Jeffrey Brown’s profile of them Tuesday on the PBS NewsHour.

Click on the video icon below to view the video:

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Brad Nominated Twice for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards

Brad has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for his take on the Cole Porter tune "I Concentrate on You," from the new Brad Mehldau Trio album, Blues and Ballads. The album comprises interpretations of songs by other composers, with the focus on blues and ballads implied by the album’s title, also including works by Charlie Parker, Lennon & McCartney, and Jon Brion. "A spellbinding set whose salient features are subtlety and understatement," Mojo exclaims. "Sublime stuff." The Times of London says it's "sublimely satisfying." The New York Times calls it "beautiful."

Brad has also been nominated with label mate and longtime friend and collaborator Joshua Redman for the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for their debut duo album, Nearness. "The pair are so well matched," says BBC Music Magazine. "Both are extraordinary, scintillating improvisers bursting with energy, yet they have great ears for one another." Mojo says: "They create a special telepathic musical synergy in each other’s company."

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Brad Featured on Guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel's new CD, Rising Grace

Guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel's new CD, Rising Grace, will be released on ECM records tomorrow. The band includes Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Brian Blade on drums.

Of the music, Brad says: "Wolfgang wrote some beautiful music here and assembled a special band. Ambrose's mysterious, beautiful trumpet playing is a delicate, unexpected foil to Wolfgang's playing and writing. Brian and Larry are at their best here, and Manfred Eicher's production yielded a pleasing, finely tuned result – I'm proud to be part of this recording." 

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Brad and Joshua Redman Embark on World Tour

Saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau embark on a two-month world tour in support of their just-released duo album, Nearness. The tour starts at the Krannert Center in Urbana, Illinois, this Friday, followed by shows at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, which the New York Times includes in its Fall Preview, and the Broad Stage in Los Angeles.

Melhdau and Redman then head to San Francisco for four nights at the SFJAZZ Center performing Mehldau’s acclaimed 2010 double album Highway Rider, October 6–9. As on the album, Mehldau will be joined by Redman; his Trio, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard; and a chamber orchestra led by conductor Dan Coleman. Another collaborator of Mehldau's, drummer Mark Guiliana, will join as well.

The duo launches the international leg of the Nearness tour in Asia in mid-October, with two nights at Blue Note Tokyo, a night at the Cotton Club in Tokyo, and shows in Seoul and Shanghai. Redman and Mehldau then head to Australia for shows in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and to Europe for dates in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, and the UK in November.
See below for all of the currently announced tour dates; for all the latest, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.

"Magic always seems to happen when saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau play together," exclaims Mojo magazine in a review of Nearness. "They create a special telepathic musical synergy in each other’s company." BBC Music magazine gives the album a perfect five stars, explaining: "The pair are so well matched. Both are extraordinary, scintillating improvisers bursting with energy, yet they have great ears for one another." The Wall Street Journal says: "Few records released this year better define what jazz sounds like today."

Check out Brad's tour page for more information and dates:

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Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau Reunite on Nearness, Available September 9 on Nonesuch

Longtime friends and collaborators release first duo album

“The sheer skill of these two musicians demanded sharp attention from start to finish.”
—The Boston Globe

“To listen to two of the leading US musicians of their generation communicating on stage so miraculously is to wonder why the attractive format of piano and saxophone hasn't been more commonplace in jazz.”
The Australian

Nonesuch Records releases saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau’s Nearness, the longtime friends’ and collaborators’ first duo album, on September 9, 2016. Nearness, a selection of duets recorded live during their recentEuropean tour, is available for pre-order now at iTunes and nonesuch.com, where an instant download of the album track “Ornithology” is included with purchase.

Brad Mehldau first came to prominence as a member Joshua Redman’s quartet in the 1990s before becoming a bandleader himself. The pair first reunited in 2010 when Redman was featured on Mehldau’s album Highway Rider. In 2013, Mehldau was featured as a performer and producer on Redman’s Walking Shadows.

“It’s like one of those friendships where you don't see someone for a long stretch and then you fall right back where you left off,” Mehldau told the Ottawa Citizen when he and Redman performed at the city’s jazz festival in 2011. According to the Citizen's Peter Hum, these two friends are “among the most potent and influential jazz instrumentalists of their generation, and what Mehldau calls ‘picking up’ is in fact world-class improvising before rapt audiences.”

Each artist has recorded extensively for Nonesuch, with a wide variety of collaborators. Brad Mehldau’s label debut was the 2004 solo disc Live in Tokyo and includes six records with his trio: House on Hill, Day Is Done, Brad Mehldau Trio Live, Ode, Where Do You Start, and Blues and Ballads. His collaborative records on the label include Love Sublime, Highway Rider, Metheny Mehldau, Metheny Mehldau Quartet, Modern Music, and Mehliana: Taming the Dragon. Mehldau’s additional solo albums on Nonesuch include Live in Marciac and last year’s 8-LP/4-CD 10 Years Solo Live, which the New York Times says contains some of the most impressive pianism he has captured on record.”

Joshua Redman’s first album on Nonesuch was the Grammy-nominated Momentum, released in 2005. His other releases on the label include Back East, Compass, and Trios Live, all of which explore the trio format; Mood Swing, originally released in 1994 with Redman’s own band, including Mehldau, and re-released by Nonesuch in 2009; Walking Shadows, his first recording to include an orchestral ensemble, from 2013; and The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, his 2015 collaboration with the acclaimed trio, which the New York Times called “a knockout” and NPR called “a roaring and beautiful summit meeting.” In 2004, he was a founder of the SFJAZZ Collective, an eight-piece, multi-generational ensemble of accomplished musicians. Since 2009, Redman has been performing with a new collaborative group called James Farm, whose members also include pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland. The group has two releases on Nonesuch; their self-titled album from 2011, and City Folk, released in 2014.

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Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau Reunite on "Nearness," New Album Due September 9 on Nonesuch

Nonesuch Records releases saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau's Nearness, the longtime friends' and collaborators' first duo album, on September 9, 2016. Nearness, a selection of duets recorded live during their recent European tour, is available for pre-order now at iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store, where an instant download of the album track “Ornithology” is included with purchase. You can hear the track and find out where the duo will be performing together this fall below; for all the latest tour details, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.

Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau - Ornithology [Official Audio]

Brad Mehldau first came to prominence as a member Joshua Redman's quartet in the 1990s before becoming a bandleader himself. The pair first reunited in 2010 when Redman was featured on Mehldau's album Highway Rider. In 2013, Mehldau was featured as a performer and producer on Redman's Walking Shadows.

"It's like one of those friendships where you don't see someone for a long stretch and then you fall right back where you left off," Mehldau told the Ottawa Citizen when he and Redman performed at the city's jazz festival in 2011. According to the Citizen's Peter Hum, these two friends are "among the most potent and influential jazz instrumentalists of their generation, and what Mehldau calls 'picking up' is in fact world-class improvising before rapt audiences."

Each artist has recorded extensively for Nonesuch, with a wide variety of collaborators. Brad Mehldau's label debut was the 2004 solo disc Live in Tokyo and includes six records with his trio: House on Hill, Day Is Done, Brad Mehldau Trio Live, Ode, Where Do You Start, and Blues and Ballads. His collaborative records on the label include Love Sublime, Highway Rider, Metheny Mehldau, Metheny Mehldau Quartet, Modern Music, and Mehliana: Taming the Dragon. Mehldau's additional solo albums on Nonesuch include Live in Marciac and last year's 8-LP/4-CD 10 Years Solo Live, which the New York Times says "contains some of the most impressive pianism he has captured on record."

Joshua Redman's first album on Nonesuch was the Grammy-nominated Momentum, released in 2005. His other releases on the label include Back East, Compass, and Trios Live, all of which explore the trio format; MoodSwing, originally released in 1994 with Redman's own band, including Mehldau, and re-released by Nonesuch in 2009; Walking Shadows, his first recording to include an orchestral ensemble, from 2013; and The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, his 2015 collaboration with the acclaimed trio, which the New York Times called "a knockout" and NPR called "a roaring and beautiful summit meeting." In 2004, he was a founder of the SFJAZZ Collective, an eight-piece, multi-generational ensemble of accomplished musicians. Since 2009, Redman has been performing with a new collaborative group called James Farm, whose members also include pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland. The group has two releases on Nonesuch; their self-titled album from 2011, and City Folk, released in 2014.

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"Blues and Ballads" Continues to Receive Rave Notices

Brad Mehldau Trio's album "Blues and Ballads" continues to receive rave notices around the world. Following are two of the latest reviews from All About Jazz and Tone Audio:
 

Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues And Ballads

By DAN MCCLENAGHAN
Published: June 19, 2016

Call Brad Mehldau's Blues and Ballads the pianist's "Every Man Set." 

There has been, from the beginning of Mehldau's career, a sense of the cerebral in his approach, with its classical music influences and his deep technical virtuosity. Throw the sometimes dense and erudite writing for selected liner notes (mostly earlier in his career) into that mix, and "Too deep for me" might be a reaction of the perennial everyman. 

Except for the beauty. 

Mehldau, along with is often lofty intentions and classical influences, has always kept a firm grip on the more common man side of sounds: Paul McCartney's "Junk" on the masterpiece four disc 10 Year Solo (Nonesuch Records, 2015). Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" from the same set. Burt Bacharach's "Alfie' from Day Is Done, (Nonesuch Records, 2005), (as fine a piano trio recording as you'll find); Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" from that same set. Elvis Costello's "Baby Plays Around," from Where Do You Start (Nonesuch Records, 2012). These wonderful plebeian pieces considered beside—from the Mehldau oeuvre—Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians," a segment of Philip Glass' "String Quartet No. 5," or Brahms' "Intermezzo in E Minor, Op.119: No.2. 

The trio opens Blues and Ballads with the memorable "Since I Fell For You," a 1945 tune penned by Buddy Johnson for his Buddy Johnson Orchestra, with his sister, Ella Johnson as vocalist. The tune attained huge popularity in 1963, when Lenny Welch's version hit number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The trio have slowed it down, so every nuance of mood and emotion in the tune can be savored. Drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier slip into a perfect accompanying mode, as opposed to the now more common style of equality of instrumental input that was pushed to the forefront by the Bill Evans Trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, in the late-fifties. But the rock solid accompanist style for the piano trio proves a refreshing approach, and well-suited to the music at hand. 

Elsewhere the trio explores the splendid simplicity of The Beatles "And I Love Her," the melodic genius of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate On You," the pretty poignancy of Jon Brion's "Little Person," the joyous buoyancy of Charlie Parker's "Cheryl," and finally closing out with a dour, melancholy—but lovely in its way—version of Paul McCartney's "My Valentine." All of this played out with a pared down style, getting to the essence of the compositions. 

Every recording by this top notch piano trio is a cause for celebration. This one is not an exception.

Track Listing: Since I Fell for You; I Concentrate on You; Little Person; Cheryl; These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); And I Love Her; My Valentine.

Personnel: Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Brad Mehldau Trio - Blues and Ballads
by Kevin Whitehead

Brad Mehldau’s new trio album might have been called A Blues and Ballads—Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” is the only blues of the seven tunes—or perhaps Blues in Ballads, since the pianist works bluesy figurations into “These Foolish Things” and Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine.”

Creative mix-and-match remains Mehldau’s modus. He minds tiny details that make all the difference—a barely grazed grace note, a sublime clinker buried in a chord, two lone notes harmonized (in very different ways) in a long lean run—as well as big, candelabra gestures. He’ll blurt out a smushed-up graceless cluster into an elegant line and make it right. His precise touch lets him foreground and background select notes in a complex run, and he has a keen sense of texture: Knows the value of open space, and of letting notes ring. He also improvises with intense focus. On “Cheryl,” he keeps relating his solo line back to the melody, one way or another: Covert paraphrase, a similar melodic contour, some tattered remnant of the original. He plays that melody in octaves, with two hands, you might assume—until he starts tossing off held chords on the side. 

He’s also good at nosing out jazz potential in contemporary pop. “Little Person” is a bittersweet Jon Brion movie ballad (from Synecdoche, New York) with the composer’s characteristically graceful jazz-adjacent harmony, a catchy hook, and bassist Larry Grenadier tolling like stately Percy Heath with the Modern Jazz Quartet. When Mehldau plays a song you know the words to, you can tell he knows them too. His phrasing reflects a vocal line even after he wanders off the melody. At four minutes, that one’s the airplay pick. I daresay his right hand sings “My Valentine” better than Sir Paul did. The tune is McCartney in romantic Michel Legrand big-ballad mode. Mehldau anchors it to a Bill Evans-like two-chord vamp, ever mutating. There’s a marvelous (tiny) moment a minute or so in, before the first time into bridge, when amidst the gossamer melodizing the pianist quietly slips in an uncouth high note, quickly redeemed when it’s revealed to be the start of a passing phrase one octave up. It’s a little window into the games he plays. 

There’s also one more (mostly) McCartney song and big movie ballad (from A Hard Day’s Night), “And I Love Her,” where Mehldau makes pivotal use of the four-note signature riff George Harrison cooked up. This number—one of three topping nine minutes—gets a bluesy rideout, where the pianist’s Keith Jarrett influence comes out: The rolling in the river. But his grooving is never absent-minded.

Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, at the boss’ service, keep their textures transparent, so as not to block any piano frequencies. Bass volume doesn’t compete with piano. The drummer goes light on the cymbal wash, and can keep a backbeat firm without walloping. The pair remains ever-sensitive to the pianist’s sudden shifts. I miss them when Mehldau goes off on romantic rubato solo flights mid-performance—though he may use those breaks to alter the mood. 

The other selections are less unusual but get no less attention. “Since I Fell for You” has tinges of gospel cadences and, momentarily, chrome-plated Professor Longhair chords. The way Mehldau frames and embellishes the melody on a bossa-fied “I Concentrate on You” functions as a primer on his gifts: The hesitations, the constantly readjusted dynamics and changes in register, the way he’ll surround a simple phrase with a coiled-snake arpeggio or a smoky haze, the way he gives everything time to breathe when it would be so easy to overplay.

Nonesuch, LP or CD

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More Blues and Ballads Review Keep Coming In

Following are more reviews coming in for the the Brad Trio's new Blues and Ballads album:

‘Each track is a beautifully crafted, richly detailed miniature with its own tale to tell. Bass and drums are understated, underscoring the sensuous contours of each Mehldau narrative.’
– Financial Times * * * * *

‘A deceptively sweet-sounding set which is absolutely absorbing. Probably, only a musician of Mehldau’s extraordinary powers of invention can do this consistently and to such intense effect.’
– Observer * * * *

FINANCIAL TIMES – JUNE 4, 2016
Brad Mehldau Trio – Blues and Ballads (Nonesuch) * * * * *
The American pianist’s current trio has been together for over a decade, yet this set of covers is their first release since 2012.
Each track is a beautifully crafted, richly detailed miniature with its own tale to tell.
“Since I Fell for You” twins the bittersweet fatalism of the blues with torch-song romance, Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” is taken at a precise, head-nodding lope while “And I Love Her” builds inexorably from contemplation to triumph.
Bass and drums are understated, underscoring the sensuous contours of each Mehldau narrative.
- Mike Hobart

OBSERVER – JUNE 5, 2016
Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues and Ballads (Nonesuch) review – extraordinarily inventive * * * * 
A deceptively sweet-sounding set which, once you cotton on to the pianist’s way of treating a few mainly well-known tunes, is absolutely absorbing. Instead of the usual jazz method of improvising on a tune over and over again, known as “playing choruses”, he plays the song with a few variations and then goes into a kind of free meditation on it. And every phrase is a cliffhanger. Probably, only a musician of Mehldau’s extraordinary powers of invention can do this consistently and to such intense effect, but it works for an old R&B tune, a blues by Charlie Parker and a Lennon-McCartney classic, among others. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard complete the effect with simplicity and grace.
- Dave Gelly 

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Blues and Ballads Garnering Rave Reviews

Brad Mehlday Trio's brand-new album, Blues and Ballads is now available on Nonesuch and it's already receiving acclaim. Following are some early reviews:

Mojo Magazine

Stellar jazz pianist Mehldau again proves that three is the magic number […] Resurrecting the trio that has consistently advanced the jazz lexicon in the course of the past 20 years.  A spellbinding set whose salient features are subtlety and understatement.  Sublime stuff. – Mojo * * * *


The Times
MAY 27, 2016
Jazz: The Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues and Ballads * * * * *

What, no Radiohead? Brad Mehldau is adept at bending almost any music to the will of the jazz tradition, whether it’s alternative rock or, as heard at the Wigmore Hall last December, establishment baroque. Yet this album has his most traditional song selection yet: four jazz standards, a Beatles ballad and just two contemporary songs, both of which are pretty much Tin Pan Alley pastiches.

The American pianist plays these standards satisfyingly straight before dragging them into surprising, yet logical, emotional territories. So I Concentrate on You starts out as the suave samba we expect but builds into a full-bodied frenzy. The supper-club sophistication of These Foolish Things segues into an unaccompanied solo that, while never straying far from the tune, turns it into unpicked embroidery.

The album’s other surprise lies in the first half of its title. We are used to Mehldau’s self-absorbed, Keith Jarrett-like ballad-playing, but the blues? Yet this most cerebral of swingers does get fairly down and dirty on this sublimely satisfying album, even if he never quite loses his poise. His rawness on Since I Fell For You is a revelation while on Charlie Parker’s Cheryl he is Monkish and meaty.

There is blues of a more noirish shade on My Valentine, a song Paul McCartney wrote for his own recent standards album. Here the tone oscillates intriguingly between the brooding and the bucolic. Mehldau steals the riff from Stolen Moments for the theme, then after a gritty bass solo from Larry Grenadier, plays an uplifting cadenza. The drummer Jeff Ballard’s shuffling brushes tie it together.

McCartney the composer is also behind the album’s other highlight, an exhilarating version of And I Love Her. The original’s famous four-note guitar hook, often jettisoned in jazz versions, here becomes a recurring leitmotiv, initially as a sullen scene-setter, finally in ringing block chords as Mehldau’s solo reaches a crescendo. Yet another rhapsodic rollercoaster from this master of romantic complexity. (NonesuchChris Pearson

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Brad Mehldau Trio Returns with "Blues and Ballads," Due June 3 on Nonesuch

Nonesuch Records releases the Brad Mehldau Trio's Blues and Ballads, the trio's first new release since 2012s Where Do You Start, on June 3, 2016.

Nonesuch Records releases the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Blues and Ballads, the trio’s first new release since 2012’s Where Do You Start, on June 3, 2016. Blues and Ballads comprises interpretations of songs by other composers, this time with the focus on blues and ballads implied by the album’s title, including works by Cole Porter, Charlie Parker, Lennon & McCartney, and Jon Brion. Blues and Ballads is available to pre-order with an instant download of the album track "Little Person.”

Visit the Album page for more info, listen to "Little Person" and pre-order CD, MP3 and LP >

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Nonesuch Releases Brad Mehldau’s 10 Years Solo Live 8-LP Vinyl Box Set October 16

Decade of live recordings from European concerts curated into 4 thematic 4-side sets: Dark/Light, The Concert, Intermezzo/Rückblick, and E Minor/E Major
 

“Mehldau is a modern jazz star often characterized as a cerebral explorer, a dynamic, incisive improviser…  In fact, the guy is a lot of fun, too… [He] has forged a singular style that has not only enhanced jazz's musical vocabulary but modernised it too … beautiful and direct ….”— Mojo
 

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 Rückblicklike 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.”


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Brad to Perform with Fleurine in Amsterdam on June 28

Brad will be performing at the famous club in Amsterdam, Bimhuis, in a duo performance accompanying the singer Fleurine. The date is Sunday evening, June 28.

Heartwarming combination of the enchanting voice of Fleurine and the incomparable piano from Brad Mehldau. "Full of subtle impact and deft timing" (The Guardian).

The Dutch-American singer Fleurine is internationally renowned for her exquisite voice, virtuoso its timing and its original lyrics by jazz compositions by Monk and Joshua Redman. With pianist Brad Mehldau she shares the love songs, jazz standards and pop songs to Brazilian gems. Their duo album Close Enough For Love example, contains work by Jimi Hendrix and Pat Metheny, original compositions and lyrics in English, French and Portuguese.

Fleurine fourth at the start of her career success with her trio with Jesse van Ruller and Johan Plomp. Her debut album Meant To Be! the best-selling jazz CD was in the Netherlands in the 90s. A meeting at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1997 led to collaboration with Brad Mehldau, who developed the most influential jazz pianist of his generation.

"Fleurine's emphasis is on musicality; in each case, her warm, enveloping sound and gentle, rhythmic drive transforms the song into something well beyond the original sources. And the inclusion of some well-crafted originals, attest to the broad reach or her talents "(Los Angeles Times).

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Jazz Supports Disability Pride NYC

On January 8, at The Quaker Friends Meeting Hall in New York City, there’ll be a fundraising concert, billed as “Jazz Legends Play for Disability Pride NYC.” The concert, with the support of the annual NYC Winter Jazzfest, will feature Brad Mehldau (pictured above), Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Cobb, Harold Mabern, George Coleman, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes and others.

Disability Pride NYC is a non-profit started by keyboardist Mike LeDonne, whose 10-year-old daughter is disabled. The organization’s goal is to establish an annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City and to support people with disabilities. The inaugural Disability Pride Parade will be held July 12, 2015, in Manhattan, and will coincide with the 25th anniversary of former President George H.W. Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disability Act.

The concert will take place from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. at The Quaker Friends Meeting Hall, which is near 15th Street and 3rd Avenue. All ticket purchases are for general admission and are tax deductible. They can be purchased at (Le) Poisson Rouge and by phone at (212) 505-3474.

For more information, go to www.disabilitypridenyc.com.

Photo credit: Augusta Quirk

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