Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has recorded and performed extensively since the early 1990s. Mehldau’s most consistent output over the years has taken place in the trio format. Starting in 1996, his group released a series of five records on Warner Bros. entitled The Art of the Trio (recently re-packaged and re-released as a 5-Disc box set by Nonesuch in late 2011). During that same period, Mehldau also released a solo piano recording entitled Elegiac Cycle, and a record called Places that included both solo piano and trio songs. Elegiac Cycle and Places might be called “concept” albums made up exclusively of original material with central themes that hover over the compositions. Other Mehldau recordings include Largo, a collaborative effort with the innovative musician and producer Jon Brion, and Anything Goes—a trio outing with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy.
His first record for Nonesuch, Brad Mehldau Live in Tokyo, was released in September 2004. After ten rewarding years with Rossy playing in Mehldau’s regular trio, drummer Jeff Ballard joined the band in 2005. The label released its first album from the Brad Mehldau Trio—Day is Done—on September 27, 2005. An exciting double live trio recording entitled Brad Mehldau Trio Live was released on March 25th, 2008 (Nonesuch). On March 16, 2010, Nonesuch released a double-disc of original work entitled Highway Rider, the highly anticipated follow up to Largo. The album was Mehldau’s second collaboration with renowned producer Jon Brion and featured performances by Mehldau’s trio—drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier—as well as percussionist Matt Chamberlain, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and a chamber orchestra led by Dan Coleman. In 2011 Nonesuch released Live in Marciac—a two CD release with a companion DVD of the 2006 performance, and Modern Music, a collaboration between pianists Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays and composer/arranger Patrick Zimmerli. In 2012 Nonesuch released an album of original songs from the Brad Mehldau Trio—Ode—the first from the trio since 2008’s live Village Vanguard disc and the first studio trio recording since 2005’s Day is Done. Ode went on to garner a Grammy nomination. Nonesuch released the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Where Do You Start, a companion disc to the critically acclaimed Ode, in the fall of 2012. Whereas Ode featured 11 songs composed by Mehldau, Where Do You Start was comprised of interpretations of 10 tunes by other composers, along with one Mehldau original. In 2013, Mehldau produced and performed on Walking Shadows, the acclaimed Nonesuch release from Joshua Redman. 2013 also saw a number of collaborative tours including a duo tour with mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, piano duets with Kevin Hays and a new electric project with prodigious drummer Mark Guiliana entitled “Mehliana.” Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, the debut release by Mehliana, was released in early 2014. Mehldau’s monumental and ambitious 10 Years Solo Live eight-LP vinyl box set was released to unanimous critical acclaim on October 16th, 2015 (with CD and digital versions released in November). The set was culled from 19 live recordings made over a decade of the pianist’s European solo concerts and was divided into four thematic subsets of four sides each: Dark/Light, The Concert, Intermezzo/Rückblick, and E Minor/E Major. In 2016, Nonesuch Records released the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Blues and Ballads—the ensemble’s first new release since 2012’s Where Do You Start—and the celebrated debut album of the Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau Duo, Nearness, featuring recordings from their 2011 European tour. Both albums have received universal praise from critics and audiences alike, and both earned a Grammy nomination for Mehldau. After several years of performing live, labelmates Mandolinist/singer Chris Thile and Mehldau released their debut: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau. In 2018, Nonesuch Records released both After Bach, an album that paired improvisations on Bach and Mehldau’s previously commissioned solo piece Three Pieces After Bach, and the highly anticipated Brad Mehldau Trio studio recording Seymour Reads the Constitution! 2019 saw the release of the critically and commercially acclaimed conceptual recording Finding Gabriel – an album of harmonically rich vocal layers paired with strings, synthesizers, rock drums, and improvisation - featuring a number of high profile guests including Ambrose Akinmusire, Kurt Elling, Becca Stevens, Gabe Kehane, and Mark Guiliana among others.
Mehldau’s musical personality forms a dichotomy. He is first and foremost an improviser, and greatly cherishes the surprise and wonder that can occur from a spontaneous musical idea that is expressed directly, in real time. But he also has a deep fascination for the formal architecture of music, and it informs everything he plays. In his most inspired playing, the actual structure of his musical thought serves as an expressive device. As he plays, he listens to how ideas unwind, and the order in which they reveal themselves. Each tune has a strongly felt narrative arch, whether it expresses itself in a beginning, an end, or something left intentionally open-ended. The two sides of Mehldau’s personality—the improviser and the formalist—play off each other, and the effect is often something like controlled chaos.
Mehldau has performed around the world at a steady pace since the mid-1990s, with his trio and as a solo pianist. His performances convey a wide range of expression. There is often an intellectual rigor to the continuous process of abstraction that may take place on a given tune, and a certain density of information. That could be followed by a stripped down, emotionally direct ballad. Mehldau favors juxtaposing extremes. He has attracted a sizeable following over the years, one that has grown to expect a singular, intense experience in his performance.
In addition to his trio and solo projects, Mehldau has worked with a number of great jazz musicians, including a rewarding gig with saxophonist Joshua Redman’s band for two years, recordings and concerts with Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Lee Konitz, and recording as a sideman with the likes of Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, and Charles Lloyd. For more than a decade, he has collaborated with several musicians and peers whom he respects greatly, including the guitarists Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Mehldau also has played on a number of recordings outside of the jazz idiom, like Willie Nelson’s Teatro and singer-songwriter Joe Henry’s Scar. His music has appeared in several movies, including Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Wim Wender’s Million Dollar Hotel. He also composed an original soundtrack for the French film, Ma Femme Est Une Actrice. Mehldau composed two new works commissioned by Carnegie Hall for voice and piano, The Blue Estuaries and The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, which were performed in the spring of 2005 with the acclaimed classical soprano, Renee Fleming. These songs were recorded with Fleming and released in 2006 on the Love Sublime record; simultaneously, Nonesuch released an album of Mehldau’s jazz compositions for trio entitled House on Hill. A 2008 Carnegie Hall commission for a cycle of seven love songs for Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter premiered in 2010. Love Songs, a double album that paired the newly commissioned song cycle, with a selection of French, American, English, and Swedish songs that Mehldau and von Otter performed together, was released in late 2010 (on the Naïve label) to unanimous praise. In 2013, Mehldau premiered and performed Variations on a Melancholy Theme a large format orchestral piece which was performed with both Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia. Commissioned by Carnegie Hall, The Royal Conservatory of Music, The National Concert Hall, and Wigmore Hall with the support of Andre Hoffmann (president of the Fondation Hoffmann) in 2015, Mehldau’s Three Pieces After Bach were inspired by selections from Johann Sebastian Bach’s seminal work, The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Mehldau was appointed as curator of an annual four-concert jazz series at London's prestigious Wigmore Hall during its 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, with Mehldau appearing in at least two of the four annual concerts. In late January 2010 Carnegie Hall announced the 2010-11 season-long residency by Mehldau as holder of the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall—the first jazz artist to hold this position since it was established in 1995. Previous holders include Louis Andriessen (2009–2010), Elliott Carter (2008–2009), and John Adams (2003–2007).
2018 Grammy Nominee – Best Jazz Instrumental Album; Best Improvised Jazz Solo “Seymour Reads the Constitution”
2013 "Where Do You Start" - Academi Du Jazz: Album of the Year
2013 Best International Ensemble (Brad Mehldau Trio) - Echo Awards (Germany)
2012 Grammy Nominee - Best Improvised Jazz solo "Ode"
2012 "Ode" wins Hungarian Gramofon Award
2012 Nominated for JazzFM "International Artist of the Year"
2011 Live in Marciac - Albums of the Year: Downbeat's Reader's Poll
2011 Piano Player of the Year: Downbeat's Reader's Poll
2010-2011 Deb’s Composer Chair – Carnegie Hall (NYC)
2010-2011 Guest Curator Wigmore Hall (London)
2010 All About Jazz Best Live Show 2010 - Brad Mehldau Trio Grand Theatre, Kingston, Canada
2009-2010 Guest Curator Wigmore Hall (London)
2009 Grammy Nominee - Best Jazz Instrumental Brad Mehldau Trio: Live
2008 Edison Award - Jazz International
2008 Top 20 Talents to Watch in 2008 - The Daily Telegraph (UK)
2007 Best Artist: Piano - Downbeat Reader's Poll
2006 Miles Davis Award - Montreal Jazz Fest
2004 Best Artist: Piano - Down Beat Readers Poll
1999 Grammy Nominee - Best Jazz Instrumental Art of the Trio 4, Back at the Vanguard
1999 Top 10 Album of 1999 Time Magazine - Elegiac Cycle
"Jazz Pianist of the Year" 1999, 2000 and 2002 Down Beat Readers Poll
Best Jazz Artist of 1999 Musica Jazz Critics Poll (Italy)
#1 Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition Acoustic Jazz Piano: 1997-1999 Down Beat Critics Poll
#1 Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition Acoustic Jazz Group: 1998 & 1999 Down Beat Critics Poll
"Choc" Award 1999 Le Monde de la Musique - Elegiac Cycle
New Star of 1998 - Swing Journal Disc Award (Japan)
Best Jazz Album of the Year 1998: Songs - Jazzman magazine (France)
Best Foreign Musician of the Year - D'Jango d'Or 98 (France)
The Best CD of 1997 - Acadamie du Jazz (France)
1997 Grammy Nominee - Best Jazz Instrumental Solo
1997 UPI Top 10 - Art Of The Trio, Vol. 1 - Jazz Album of the Year
1997 Best New Artist - Jazz Times Readers Poll
1997 Best New Talent - Musica Jazz Critics Poll (Italy)
1997 Debut Artist of the Year - New York Jazz Awards