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Note from Brad – "Finding Gabriel" Solo Piano

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Hi everyone. I’d like to share the piano part for the title track of my new record, Finding Gabriel, for pianists, other musicians and anyone else curious. I wrote it as a piano solo piece, recorded that first, and then built everything else on top of it. What’s on the PDF here is on the track on the record, even if it’s often submerged by the other stuff. In the music I didn't mark any pedal except one spot and used it as sparingly as possible. You can get a lot from “finger-pedaling” – holding onto some of those melody notes marked with tenuto; others are actually asked to be held. It’s nice to keep the pedaling spare to articulate the figuration a bit. I put minimal dynamics, just a few tempi markings as I perceived it solo, and some articulation marks. I began it partially as an etude for myself to work on finger strength a bit, and to try to get rhythmic evenness, melodic clarity, and dynamic control in groups of five 16th notes, like in bars 153-156. 

Also, I’d like to share the audio of the piano alone before we layered stuff on top of it, recorded on the Steinway C at Bunker Studios, to hear it as a stand-alone piece. Maybe some piano players would like to play it? 

Hope you enjoy! Thanks, Brad


Listen and download the audio track and PDF file:

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Note from Brad – "The Prophet is A Fool"

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Note from Brad – "The Prophet is A Fool"

First, a hearty thanks to everyone who’s checked out Finding Gabriel, and also thank the incredibly talented group of people who participated in the project: The musicians Ambrose Akinmusire; Sara Caswell; Chris Cheek; Kurt Elling; Joel Frahm; Mark Guiliana; Noah Hoffeld; Gabe Kahane; Snorts Malibu; Lois Martin; Charles Pillow; Becca Stevens; Michael Thomas; John Davis, who recorded and mixed the project; Alex Deturk, who mastered to CD and vinyl; Nolan Theis, who tracked as well and took the photos; Todd Carter, assistant engineer; Robert Edridge-Waks, who created the videos for "The Garden" and "O Ephraim"; and last but certainly not least, Dima Drjuchin, who created the art for the cover and videos, and created the video for "The Prophet Is a Fool."

I’d like to say here: I am sorry if I don’t respond to comments on this Facebook page. I’d be too self-conscious. I became a performing musician give or take 30 years ago, before there was as much opportunity to connect directly with people through social media on the web. I guess I’m kind of a Luddite, set in my ways. I have total respect for artists who can rock social media and carry on with their creative output, and don’t think there’s a right way or wrong way to be an musician/artist more generally in-the-world – it’s just a matter of habit. Maybe I’ll change down the road…

But I’d also like to say: I really enjoy reading the comments to get a vibe on how all everyone is responding to my music, both positive and negative. They give me a perspective, if not on how I should play music, then definitely how I can communicate it to an audience: how much context to give, how much to lead the listener or not lead the listener, and how what I imagined ahead of time might be that listener’s response is different from the response I get. That’s valuable for me. So: sincere thanks for that, to everyone who’s shared comments.

I think I wanted to share that because this latest release, with Dima’s video, is definitely more in the “I feel this way; don’t you?” zone – more leading the listener. Caveat emptor.

Also on the gratitude tip – I really appreciate the posts on the other facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/allaboutBradMehldau. With the YouTube stuff that people post, it’s gratifying and interesting to see what goes up and how others respond – both musicians and non-musicians alike. It’s also fun to see pictures from the old days (and sometimes I’m like, “Oh man, I’ve really gotten older!”).

The Prophet Is a Fool

When I saw the video of 12 year old Tamir Rice being shot dead by the police in 2014, I cried. I cried for his sister. The police wouldn’t let her comfort her brother as he lay there dying. They pulled her away and threatened to arrest her mother. I cried when the children were murdered in their classroom in Sandy Hook, in 2012. I cried at the horror of it. I cried in grief for the parents and families. There’s been so much of this violence, death and cruelty since then, and there will be more. I think about that all the time and I don’t know what to do with it. It messes me up.

“The Prophet Is a Fool” is about guns, hatred and fear. Dima’s video conveys that visually. Trump is a character in that story. He has endorsed and encouraged that hatred. He has encouraged no legislation to restrict the sale of military grade assault weapons to mentally deranged people like Adam Lanza, who killed those kids in Sandy Hook in broad daylight, or murderous racists like Dylan Roof, who walked into a church and killed nine African-American members of its congregation after they invited him to pray with them. Although these events happened before he was president, he has expressed no real compassion to the families of the victims. On the contrary, he has endorsed Alex Jones, who initiated conspiracy theories that the children in Sandyhook were not really murdered, and that high-school aged survivors of the Parkland shooting calling for stricter gun legislation were paid actors. Under his presidency, the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States took place in Las Vegas. When asked if it constituted an act of domestic terrorism, he would not answer.

As standing president, he has equivocated racist Neo-Nazis with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, only hours after one of them murdered Heather Heyer by driving his car into a crowd. He has stoked xenophobia through false propaganda about immigration. He fabricated a story about President Obama’s citizenship. Racist, xenophobic hatred is crack cocaine for Trump. He sells it to his base and many of them smoke it with him. There is only one thing good for me about the Trump phenomenon: It has made me less ignorant of the racism in my country – in its institutions, and in its citizens.

For those who are put off with a one-sided portrayal of people who want a border wall, I’ll just say: I’m not aiming for a discussion about border security in the music, because music and animation do not parse policy so well. They better convey direct emotion. The emotion I’m addressing is fear, expressed through xenophobia. Trump has encouraged that xenophobia. He is a xenophobe himself. His birther-obsession with President Obama began years before he got into the White House.

People have seen videos of the kind of Trump rally I used in the song. Trump whips up the audience into a frenzy by pouring his idiot hatred onto Central American immigrants and Middle Eastern refugees, implying that they are all freeloading criminals and terrorists. The audience eats it up, and screams back, “Build that wall, build that wall!” In several instances, Trump supporters have physically assaulted counter-protestors, as well as news crews.

It seems obvious, but just to be clear: Dima and I were not parodying all Trump voters in the video. We were focusing on a noxious group who have hijacked the discourse and turned it into a yelling match, or worse. Someone might say I’m stoking flames in the music with the voice-overs and animation. I’m not ridiculing that group though and neither is Dima in his animation. The way he drew them shows the unhappiness of their rage, in their faces and gestures. They’re trapped in their own hatred and fear. I would hate to be one of them. That conviction is neither ridicule nor condescending pity.

I am also unsettled about the violence I’ve seen coming from some Antifa gatherings. I’m dismayed at the propensity for censorship I’ve seen from college students at Berkeley and other campuses, and the professors and administrators at those ostensibly liberal-learning institutions who are caving into their demands. Maybe a musician and animator should make a video about that. Bring it on. But I can’t equivocate the two sides like Trump did when he said there were some “very fine” white supremacists marching in Charlottesville. There is no such thing as a very fine white supremacist.

The fear expressed in the music is from both sides. I’d like to stay equanimous, but I have fear as well. I’m scared of scared people with guns. That’s what I mean on the track when I say that although Trump has weakened the most rageful individuals in his base, they are dangerous – they have the desperation of a wounded bear that will lash out its paws even stronger. They are scared/scary.

The music – with Joel’s scared/scary tenor sax solo, Mark’s frenetic drumming, and the short-circuited solace of Ambrose’s trumpet solo when the wall-crowd returns – was meant to make everyone’s fear palpable, mine as well. It conveys my own confusion, anger and fear but doesn’t justify it. I don’t say I’m “right”, but it doesn’t look good to me right now.

Conflating the “build-the-wall” crowd and gun violence may seem clunky for some, but the reason why I interpolated that chant into the music is because it is such a strong trope for fear. Fear builds walls and shuts down communication. Trump’s useless border wall might never be built, but the wall of fear he has built will be his rancid legacy.

In the musical expression and the animation, I imagine confronting these people out in the open. It’s not a happy place. It’s divisive. I’m expressing that divisive fear in my music. I’m not endorsing it. A happy tune about building a wall and gun violence doesn’t make sense.

In Dima’s animation we see these birds. The birds are flying, and they keep getting shot. They have no defense. This is what’s happening to African-Americans in wrongful arrests, and this is what’s happening to young people, like in the Parkland shooting – they keep getting shot. In the case of Tamir Rice and others, like Terrence Crutcher or Stephon Clark, they are killed by the people who are supposed to protect them. They have no defense, just a bunch of lies. They are being written off. What did they die for?

I’m bearing witness as a musician. Some might say I should stay mute and leave the politics for the pundits. Keeping quiet implies humility, I guess – one knows one’s place. I see it oppositely: a musician is then favored, never having to get his hands in the mud with everyone else.

I am a musician but my heroes are not just other musicians. They include writers like George Orwell – writers who have given me a picture of what it’s like to be politically engaged yet still check my convictions, to make sure I’m still thinking for myself, and not getting strung along by someone else’s language, from either side of the wall.

If an artist in any discipline elects to stays above the fray, privileging aesthetics, what’s to say she won’t aestheticize real suffering? Orwell made this point.

 

You cannot take a purely aesthetic interest in a disease you are dying from; you cannot feel dispassionately about a man who is about to cut your throat. In a world in which Fascism and Socialism were fighting one another, any thinking person had to take sides….This period of ten years or so in which literature, even poetry, was mixed up with pamphleteering, did a great service….because it destroyed the illusion of pure aestheticism….It debunked art for art’s sake.
– George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell

It might seem alarmist to invoke the last century’s struggle between Fascism and Socialism. Trump has proclaimed the press an “enemy of the people” in the language of Fascism, though. He has not demonstrated a respect for the rule of law, and feels no need to tell the truth, factually. He has courted and fawned over authoritarian leaders, reaching out to them instead of American allies. We know that his campaign was aided by a foreign power. If he had only one of these characteristics – aversion to a free press, mendaciousness, traitorous criminality – we would be rightfully concerned. Taken altogether, they are alarming, absolutely. We need to speak out, as artists. We need to not be complacent.

Criticizing someone’s politics because they are the normative ones of a large group of people, not edgy enough, is to aestheticize politics and divorce them from any substantive explanation of how policy affects real people. This is what Tucker Carlson and the like do on Fox News, snorting at the majority who voted for Hilary Clinton in the last election. Fox would have its viewership believe that they’re onto something grand. They are the apostles, and Sean Hannity is a noble voice in the wilderness, talking directly to God. (His net worth is currently $200 million.) Fox News is not news, though. It is an aesthetic phenomenon. It provides entertainment and distraction for its viewers, masking as a channel of information.

Faux-edginess is also the domain of internet trolls. The troll bitches rabidly at anything that smacks of neo-liberalism, without acknowledging that neo-liberalism has given him his platform. He vaguely advocates something much darker. Neo-liberalism has failed a large group of people, but don’t forget what it’s brought: Google, Facebook, YouTube – all tools for the troll as much as for anyone else.

It’s not that I don’t listen to the troll. I listen to him, but I’m more convinced by someone I’m certain has suffered; not someone who has decided to break bad out of boredom, or to sell dietary supplements like Alex Jones (net worth, $10 million). I’ll listen to Jones as much as I can stomach, but my sympathy is for the families of the Sandy Hook victims. The most abominably irrevocable act is murder, and the greatest suffering is in the ones who go on living with their loss.

The consequence of judging political sentiments aesthetically, based on their gritty appeal, is that we get shunned when we express a benign sentiment like, “That’s cruel”. This is backhanded censorship. It is made possible by free-speech, but only permits anti-social speech. It’s a crappy aesthetic that poses as punk. Real punk pokes holes in censorship; fake punks like Milo Yiannopoulos reinforce it. If you equate black people with monkeys, as his followers do, you’re expressing your freedom of speech. If you call for limiting racist hate speech in a social media platform, you are a “totalitarian”.

We are afraid of faceless trolls. We have made them our moral arbiters. In a repeated ritual, the troll is judge, jury and executioner in the various shame-games that play out on the net, and politics is no exception. Why do we give a troll an audience? How is it that we give credence to someone who is too cowardly to identify himself, someone who is not a someone, but a series of sock-puppets on YouTube?

The only explanation is that we sympathize with the troll; we get him. We want to be that voice in the wilderness – the one with the real scoop, who will set everyone else straight and show them their blindness. Acquiring a personal politics, though, isn’t a fast-track gnosis like in The Matrix. It doesn’t sound flashy; it doesn’t make for snappy comments on 4chan. It is a process of self-evaluation. It’s not posting the first thing that comes in your head.

Endlessly ironizing your opponent’s convictions by saying she is caught in another “narrative” is not a political position. It is the beginning of one. You’re seeing the holes in your own story. The next step is that you realize you and those around you are in complicity with actions that go against your moral code, perhaps unwittingly, or covertly, by the leader you all support. You want to rush to tell everyone. But wait – they’ll call you on it, saying that you benefit as well from the status quo.

Your idealism chips away, replaced by self-protection. You don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. You think, “Maybe my idealism was nothing but trying to sound good to myself. I’ve always been a hypocrite.” And you were right. You were – along with everyone else. So you become world-weary and ironic: “We’re all complicit.” You might get stuck there, vaguely.

You shouldn’t get stuck there. You need to push through. You need to find the position you can live with, with all its contingencies – not the untethered contingencies themselves. For me, that is the liberal position. To be a liberal means: I base my politics on the apprehension of everyone’s common suffering. I may fail at my task, but I don’t give up trying.

When I speak with someone who has come to a conservative position through honest self-evaluation, I respect that person. I welcome conservative critique of my own views and often see my own wrongheadedness. To be a conservative, as I understand it, is to not orient oneself toward collective suffering, but rather toward collective sin. Liberals tend to blame someone’s suffering on society, sympathizing with the individual. Conservatives tend to blame someone’s suffering on himself, holding him accountable. Liberals become hypocritical when they start to talk about sin, conservatively – when they start scolding everybody. Conservatives become hypocritical when they start to talk about suffering too much, liberally – whining about their own entitlements.

Liberals specialize in imaginative empathy; conservatives specialize in moral resolve. I’m glad of both. The notion that we’ve somehow moved beyond the liberal/conservative schism is wishful thinking. It’s defeatism and confusion trying to sound clearheaded. It doesn’t play out in reality. Say what you want about the two-party system in America, but parliamentary democracies, with their multitude of parties – Green, Socialist, pro-market, Euroskeptic, anti-immigration, what have you – wind up with the same schism. They have to make coalitions and eventually you get a left-wing or right-wing majority, with some people happy about it, and others not. They get stuck in gridlock, and their governments shut down periodically, just like what happened under Trump for more than a month.

Trump is neither conservative nor liberal. He is an a apolitical opportunist. In the long run – if he is elected again – he is good for no one, because he is bad for democracy. Trump infuriates liberals so much, though, because he reminds them of liberal failure. At its worst, liberalism, with its constant ironizing and self-questioning, tip-toeing around any resolution, leads to inertia and moral relativism that permit the possibility of anything and accomplish nothing. That is Trump in a nutshell – promising something to everybody, delivering nothing.

Republicans in Washington relish Trump because he unwittingly exposes liberal hypocrisy – he is the biggest failure of liberalism they’ve ever been able to dangle in front of everyone. They don’t even have to do anything. The more he lies, the better for them. That’s why they line up behind him in formation like apparatchiks.

There’s two-facedness on both sides – liberals conservatively shunning, and conservatives liberally whimpering. But those two sides are still there; they haven’t just cancelled themselves out into some utopian hyperspace. I am not attacking the conservative viewpoint. I am calling out xenophobia, racism and hatred. If a self-proclaimed liberal wants to equate these abhorrent attributes with conservatism, he is disingenuous. If a self-proclaimed conservative ties his identity to racism and nativism, he is dangerous.

The point is that liberal and conservative truth claims are submitted in the framework of a democracy, which implies mutual, if at times grudging, respect and civility. Both liberals and conservatives have an account for suffering and the ones who inflict the suffering; neither ignore those subjects. The desire to blot them out is anti-democratic. If you ignore the both suffering of others and personal accountability as they play out in the political framework of your society, you are flirting with true totalitarianism, where the individual has no voice, no power – not through the state, nor through her own resolve.

* * *

I’ve learned about other people’s suffering though strong literature: fiction, political writing, scripture. Musicians are my guiding lights, like the African-American ones who gave me the music I play, who heroically surmounted their own suffering and made something beautiful and lasting. That surmounting was a personal achievement, but also a political one. The politically transformative power of great music and art is not only in its protest. It’s in its victories. The creative victories of my musical heroes are also political victories that raise our society as a whole. Music and art are always political.

I don’t want to make art for art’s sake. No thinking artist believed in that after two World Wars and a Holocaust. “Art for art’s sake”, when Nabokov or Thomas Mann make it a subject, is not a dictum. It is an admission of provisional defeat from a great writer, an expression of inconsolable irony. It is born out of consternation, not glibness. It means: “If I wanted my art to be only for art’s sake, I couldn’t.” At the same time, it signals: “If I wanted my art to matter, I couldn’t.”

An earlier aesthete like Oscar Wilde put the second of those admissions succinctly when he said, “All art is perfectly useless.” It’s funny, but we don’t really think he wants art to be useless. He’s just having a shrug about it, motoring through with his humor. Every artist wants her art to matter, no matter how they might self-defensively posture. So art for art’s sake is never something to which we aspire. It’s something we resign to when we truthfully admit the limitations of art, when we say: “My art did not affect political change this time the way I wanted.” Or, more troublingly: “That art, looking back now, was used for wrong kind of political change.” We don’t abandon hope in art though any more than we abandon hope in democratic discourse; we keep trying.

A troll tries to be creative, even artistic, when he attacks someone. It’s bad art though. He has no vision. His expression is unoriginal. This troll culture is the only one that Trump knows. His tweets are miniature, shitty artworks, with no accountability. They are disposable by design; they replace each other continuously. Here one might say: I am contradicting myself; I am aestheticizing politics. Yet trolling, whether from Trump or anonymously, is not political – it is cruelty, nothing more. This cruelty for the sake of cruelty is the sinister, final outcome of art for art’s sake; it is what Orwell meant when he said, “The object of torture is torture.”

To say that Trump acts “cynically” is to give him too much credit. Trump is not an intelligent animal. He does not self-reflect, nor does he apprehend humor. The only time he laughs is when someone else has been brought down. He may have learned that from his father Fred, as some surmise, but he’s all grown up now and is accountable for his actions. The problem is he is still a child. We’ve grown fatigued of this absurdity and want to escape. That is the emotional sentiment of the track that immediately follows “The Prophet Is a Fool” on the record, “Make it All Go Away”.

Trump’s lies have fostered the defeatist belief that no one is thinking for himself anymore – whatever I’m thumping my chest about is just some fake news. The title of “The Prophet Is a Fool” comes from the Book of Hosea. I don’t refer to Trump as a prophetic fool; the biblical translation into English is misleading, but Hosea’s poetry is strong: He meant that even if a real prophet came along, everyone would call him a fool – he’d get lost in all the noise. Trump keeps the noise constant – that is the only thing he is good at.

I’m not smug about Trump. Anyone who lived in New York City in the 80’s and 90’s knew Trump already then for what he was: A real-estate mogul who kept always kept his own money by exploiting bankruptcy laws. The fraud accusations already followed him back then. His strategy is no different now. He sells America short every time, exploiting the rule of law to grab his own share. There is nothing mysterious about him. He is driven by malevolent greed. The tax law he signed returns tens of millions of dollars to his own pocket. The presidency was attractive to Trump because he could tweak the system to serve his own family dynasty.

Trump was a misogynist long before he landed in the White House. We don’t need CNN “mainstream liberal” media to tell us that. He’s been a sexual braggart with a predatory streak for decades. You don’t need to be a liberal to know that.

One thing I don’t recall from Trump’s earlier decades in NYC was him going to church. No one believes that Trump knew or cared about Mike Pence – also no bright light – until his bid at presidency became a possibility. The homophobe Pence is ineffectual except in keeping his credulous brethren in Trump’s bullpen. The people who vetted Pence are smart enough. Oily figures like Mitch McConnell who actually do Trump’s bidding are intelligent. They are also immeasurably cynical.

Mike Pence is dumb enough, but you can be dumb and kind. He is not kind. When I look at his glazed eyes and frozen smile, I see resolute, pernicious pride. Christian apologist C.S. Lewis identified spiritual Pride as the most lethal of the Seven Deadly Sins, far more deadly than the merely animal Lust that sets Pence aquiver:

 

How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people.
– from Mere Christianity

I don’t count myself out regarding the emotion of hatred any more than I do fear. I hate too. Lewis guides my hatred:

 

Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

Mere Christianity

So I try to hate the evil itself and not the individual, with the awareness of my own sin. Loving your enemy – indeed, it’s setting the bar high. It’s very easy to get self-righteous about your “love” and find that it’s collapsed back into pride.

It is a truism now that criticizing people who voted for Trump is a form of condescension. It is uttered as much by professional blowhards like Rush Limbaugh as it is by soul-searching liberals, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. When Limbaugh does it, it’s a diversion – more entertainment. He keeps himself from having to be accountable. It’s condescending to write someone off by saying they were so desperate they couldn’t think straight anymore. I hold a Trump supporter as just as capable of reasoning as me or anyone else, and thus I say to many – not all – of them: You were smarter than that. You gave into anti-social impulses. Your vote was a fuck-you vote.

To boy scouts in brown shirts like Richard Spencer and Gavin McInnes, to self-loathing inverted liberals like Milo Yiannopoulos: You are a farcical repeat of tragic history. You are a facsimile. You are intellectually lazy; you are narcissistic. You are self-pitying; you are far more entitled than the minority you target. You are the rotten afterbirth of something that stunk to begin with. You are forgettable.

The thing is: There is no red pill. There is no clear-eyed utopia we will wake up to, not a fascist one, not a mollifying benevolent one. There is only dissonant reality and temporary resolution. The song doesn’t end. If it ends, we end with it. We are in the matrix. The prophet is among us but we don’t hear.

Brad Mehldau, June 2019

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WBGO Premieres Brad's "O Ephraim"

PHOTO: MICHAEL WILSON

PHOTO: MICHAEL WILSON

WBGO Premiered Brad’s “O Ephraim” from his upcoming Finding Gabriel album, due May 17 on Nonesuch Records. Following is an excerpt from the article:

The often-senseless chaos of our present age has inspired every form of new artistic expression, from television dramas to realist novels. For pianist and composer Brad Mehldau, it yielded a striking and unorthodox album, Finding Gabriel, which Nonesuch will release on May 17.

The album comes out of a few recent preoccupations, including the Biblical Old Testament, and in particular the prophetic works of Daniel and Hosea. “The Bible felt like a corollary and perhaps a guide to the present day — one long nightmare or a signpost leading to potential gnosis, depending on how you read it,” Mehldau reflects in an album statement.

“O Ephraim,” which has its premiere here, borrows its title from Hosea 6:4, a passage of admonition. (“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”)

Another contributing factor on Finding Gabriel is the OB-6 synthesizer, which Mehldau has added to his arsenal. On “O Ephraim” he features that instrument along with Fender Rhodes and acoustic pianos, Musser Ampli-Celeste, Morfbeats gamelan strips, drums and vocals. It’s a multilayered solo performance — one of several on the album, which elsewhere features the likes of vocalist Becca Stevens, drummer Mark Guiliana and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.

Finding Gabriel will be released on Nonesuch Records on May 17; preorder here.


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Note from Brad – Louis Cole Album

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Hi everyone, hope you are well. I just arrived home from the road and found this fantastic gift from Louis Cole – both vinyl and CD! I was very glad to play on a track for this project. It’s a beautiful record. Probably a lot of you have already checked this as it’s been out for several months but if you haven’t, do have a listen! Louis bringing it on the compositions, drumming and singing. Original and very here and-now.

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Brad Mehldau's New Album, "Finding Gabriel," Due May 17 on Nonesuch Records

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Brad Mehldau's Finding Gabriel will be released on Nonesuch Records on May 17, 2019. The album comprises nine thematically related songs by Mehldau and features performances by him on piano, synthesizers, percussion, and Fender Rhodes, as well as vocals. Guest musicians include Ambrose Akinmusire, Sara Caswell, Kurt Elling, Joel Frahm, Mark Guiliana, Gabriel Kahane, and Becca Stevens, among others. Full track listing and credits are below.

Finding Gabriel is available for pre-order now at iTunes and the Nonesuch Store, where the track "The Garden" may be downloaded immediately. It will also stream at Spotify, Apple Music, and other digital service providers. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include an exclusive, limited-edition print.

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Note from Brad: New Song Cylce with Ian Bostridge

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Hello everyone, I’m very excited to premiere a song cycle tomorrow here in Schloss Elmau.  I wrote for it tenor Ian Bostridge to sing with myself accompanying. The second half of the program is Schumann’s Dichterliebe. We’ll continue a tour in Paris, London, Barcelona, Hamburg, Berlin and Luxembourg. In the photo I’m flanked by Dietmar Müller-Elmau on my left, who generously invited us to spend a week here rehearsing and preparing the music; and on my left by Ian Bostridge. It’s a dream to work with him! We will bring this program to North America next fall. 

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Brad & Ian Bostridge Premiere The Folly of Desire

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Brad will premiere a new song cycle 'The Folly of Desire' with British tenor Ian Bostridge at concert halls in Europe starting this February

After seeing each other perform at Schloss Elmau in Germany a few years ago, Brad and Ian quickly professed their admiration for each other's work. They've stayed in touch ever since, corresponding about everything from their shared love of lieder to Bach and jazz.

This friendship ignited a creative spark and Brad began writing new music specifically with Ian in mind. When he shared the compositions with Ian, the two musicians decided to expand the work into a song cycle that explores the theme of the modern sinuous nature of human desire as it exists in love and adoration. The result is The Folly of Desire, a song cycle composed by Brad with lyrics from the poetry of Shakespeare, e.e. cummings, Brecht, Yeats, Goethe, Blake, and more. Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe ("A Poet's Love")fittingly completes the concert program.

Brad and Ian return to Schloss Elmau in February for a preview concert, with the official world premiere of The Folly of Desire the next evening at Philharmonie de Paris, and more performances to follow. Scroll below and click for ticket information and stay tuned for a US tour schedule soon!

The Folly of Desire was co-commissioned by Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Wigmore Hall, Stanford Live at Stanford University, and Carnegie Hall.

THE FOLLY OF DESIRE TOUR DATES
24 Feb / Elmau, DE / Schloss Elmau
25 Feb / Paris, FR / Philharmonie de Paris
26 Feb / Barcelona, ES / L'Auditori
28 Feb / Hamburg, DE / Elbphilharmonie
03 Mar / London, UK / Wigmore Hall
05 Mar / Luxembourg City, LU / Philharmonie Luxembourg
06 Mar / Berlin, DE / Berlin Philharmoniker

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Note from Brad: A New Recording with Kyle Crane

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Hope you are all well. If you have time I’d like to tell you about a new release from musician Kyle Crane. Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel turned me on to him and connected us. Kyle is a drummer but much more - a composer and maker of sonic landscapes. The music takes you on a journey. I got to play on one track, “Kaleidoscope”, on his new record. The project is called Crane Like The Bird. You can hear the track on Spotify below, and see more information and images on Instagram.

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Brad and Joshua Redman Performance Featured on NPR's "Toast of the Nation"

From Nonesuch.com

Saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau were among the performers in this year's edition of NPR Music's Toast of the Nation, an annual New Year's Eve show of six hour-long jazz performances to help ring in the New Year in style. Redman and Mehldau's set captures their 2016 duo performance at Blue Note Tokyo, including Brad Mehldau's "Jedediah," the Monk-inspired piece "Let's Call This," the standard "My Ideal," and Redman's The Oneness of Two (In Three)," and a bit of Charlie Parker's "Ornithology." You can hear it below.

"Two of my favorite albums that came out [in 2018] were from my old friends Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman, both of whom recently picked up Grammy nominations," says host Christian McBride. "These guys are great friends and have been playing together since the early '90s. A few years back, they decided to join forces once more to record a live album called Nearness. You can hear how well they connect musically."

Nearness, Redman and Mehldau's first duo album together, was recorded live on tour in Europe in 2011 and features all different tracks than the set heard below. "The pair are so well matched," says BBC Music Magazine in a five-star album review. "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."

To pick up a copy of Nearness, or the 2018 Grammy-nominated Redman and Mehldau albums to which McBride refers, visit the Nonesuch Store now.

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Jazzwise Review: Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad

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Following is an excerpt of a review from Jazzwise on December 13, 2018

The entire spectrum can dazzle at Jazztopad, a Polish festival in the south-western city of Wrocław, which has just reached its 15th edition. Gigs happen on all levels, from the new and impressive main concert hall of the National Forum of Music, down to the heavy late-night jam sessions in the brick basement of Mleczarnia, a café that’s just along the street. We could find pianist Brad Mehldau in both locations.

He gave the premiere of his 'Piano Concerto', with the NFM Philharmonic, but opened with an unexpected solo set, which began by merging Bach into Radiohead, proceeding through an older school of standards which included the wise selection of Frank Loesser’s ‘Inchworm’, in homage to Danny Kaye. The grand concerto revealed Mehldau as a semi-traditionalist, unlike, let’s say, Uri Caine. Mehldau’s work favoured a romantic, lyrical sweep, definitely rural as opposed to urban. Prominent harp and tubular bells eased the transition towards the second section’s almost suburban pointillism, with the composer making responses, commenting on the massed string phrases, sometimes alone, other times with the entire ranks.

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Jazzwise Names Two of Brad's Albums as Top Jazz Albums of 2018

Jazzwise Named Brad’s Seymour Read the Constitution! and After Bach as two of their “Top 20 Jazz Albums” of 2018. Following are reviews for each album.

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#7: After Bach

“As a professional organist, much of Bach’s work took the form of improvisation, and during his lifetime it was the virtuosity and complexity of these improvisations for which he was most admired,” writes Timo Andres in his liner note. “Some three centuries after the fact, Brad Mehldau takes up this tradition and applies it to a frustratingly unknowable aspect of Bach’s art.” As we all know, however, J.S. Bach invented modern jazz – where would Bird have been without him? – and the likes of Jacques Loussier have regularly jazzed up the great German keyboard improviser’s back catalogue, to stirring and popular effect. Mehldau doesn’t take the easy route, you wouldn’t expect him to – and though some passages of ‘Before Bach: Benediction’ may have you squeezing your eyes as you try to follow his musical thoughts, you wouldn’t want him to either. Here he pairs straight recitals of four preludes and one fugue from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier with compositions and improvisations inspired by them: ‘After Bachs’. Is the result jazz? The densely – and, given its title, appropriately – dreamy ‘After Bach: Dream’ probably owes more to Debussy than any later jazzy interpreter of Herr B. But who cares? After Bach probably won’t become your favourite Mehldau release, but you’ll find it hard to resist all the same. 
– Robert Shore

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#4: Seymour Reads the Constitution!

“Brad Mehldau’s teasing talent for setting a mood of fascinating expectation and then unhurriedly revealing its multiple implications has been a marvel of contemporary jazz since the 1990s, and rarely more so than on this riveting seventh album featuring his longterm trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. Mehldau plays that game from the first moments of the standout opener, ‘Spiral’ – at first alone and almost absent-mindedly spinning a descending eight-note ostinato, then floating a spacious treble melody over it, quickly joined by a bass pulse and discreet latin snare-tick to unwrap a long piano improv of asymmetrical lines, playful delays, and fresh melodies as that hypnotic left-hand mantra murmurs on. The title-track, a deceptively languid waltz with a central role for the imaginative Grenadier, similarly kindles a stream of intensifying variations in which Mehldau never raises his pianistic voice. ‘Almost Like Being In Love’ (one of five covers) is playful and springy, Elmo Hope’s ‘De-Dah’ is rhythmically jagged and then euphorically-swinging bebop, Brian Wilson’s ‘Friends’ is massaged by slinky long lines and hints of blues, Sam Rivers’ ‘Beatrice’ is a tender melody soon stirred into a Bill Evans-reminiscent trio sprint that propels the leader into some of his most freewheeling doubletime flights. The ever-empathic Mehldau trio might offer a familiar brew, but it never stops fizzing with life.”
– John Fordham

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Note from Brad Regarding Steinway Hamburg

Dear friends, Brad here. I hope everyone is well. Just wanted to share some photos of a recent trip to Hamburg. It was a deep honor to be invited by Steinway Hamburg to choose a piano for the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. The beautiful “Ellphie” will now have 3 pianos at its disposal. There were four pianos for me to choose from as you see in the first photo; I chose the one I’m seated at after about an hour of playing all of them. It wasn’t too difficult. It has a warm tone and sings back at you. Absolute control and possibility! It is not bright; it’s not the one for Rach 3. But the Elb already has that one actually. 

Afterwards I got a tour of Steinway’s factory from my generous host, Gerrit Glaner, Head of Steinway C&A in Hamburg, pictured opening the large doors to the factory below. That was inspiring and I learned a lot in a very short amount of time about the construction of these amazing instruments. I probably retained about 12% of what Gerrit explained to me, but it was great stuff.

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Brad's Message About His Recording with Charlie Haden

Hello everybody, hope you are all well and just wanted to mention that there’s a new live duo recording of the late great Charlie Haden and I that’s been recently released. It’s called Long Ago And Far Away. Here is a review of it from Financial Times. The music comes from a concert at the EnjoyJazz festival in Mannheim, Germany from 2007. It was a special night with a fantastic audience. Their focused listening, I believe, helped the music unfold at a meditative pace. It’s a strong testament, I think, to Charlie’s completely free way of playing, on tracks like the title track or the Bird blues Au Privave. This kind of harmonic freedom was only possible with Charlie and it was exhilarating to interact with him musically when he was around. He was also an important mentor for me.

Charlie lived in Malibu, California in the time I knew him and his wife, my dear friend Ruth Haden (who was largely responsible for shepherding this record into existence, with warm thanks to Impulse France for releasing it), is still there. As many of you probably know, one of the fires in California, known as the Woolsey fire, is still burning in Malibu. We send our prayers to Ruth and all of the people in the beautiful state of California who have already suffered from these devastating fires, in towns like Paradise further north as well. I am so sorry for the loss and pain that people have endured and wish them strength. 

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Two Quick Items from Brad

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Hello everyone, Brad here. Two quick items:

First I want to join others in extending my condolences to Roy Hargrove’s family and loved ones. I met Roy years ago in 1988 when we were both young and he was incredible then - a fully formed musician, completely there, nothing missing. I played with him (late night jam session) not even 5 months ago at Smalls and he sounded just as great, even better - perfect solos with absolute economy. High musicality tempered with undeniable  bad-assed coolness; fire and brimstone when the music called for it yet a true romantic in his heart, all heart. That was Roy.  He was a true artist and I’ll miss him with everyone else.

Second, for U.S. citizens: Please go and vote today! (I did my absentee last week). In my lifetime there has never been a mid term election as important as this one. Vote with your conscience but vote - even if those bastards might already be hacking the electronic voting machines. Okay enough preaching. Have a great day everyone and over the next couple weeks I’ll be giving some news about projects I’ve been involved in that have been fun and gratifying. Will try not to clog your inbox too much.


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Brad Mehldau Trio Returns with 'Seymour Reads the Constitution!', Available May 18 on Nonesuch

“The pianist Brad Mehldau has led this iteration of his pace-setting trio … since 2005, and it has evolved into a graceful powerhouse, equally savvy about groove and harmony.”
– New York Times

“Three musicians who share a common aesthetic … in which gestures are stated softly and with utmost subtlety ... When music-making becomes this transparent, listeners can relish details of texture and voicing.”
– Chicago Tribune

 Nonesuch Records releases the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Seymour Reads the Constitution! on May 18, 2018. The pianist and his longtime trio, which includes drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier, perform three Mehldau originals combined with interpretations of pop songs (Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson), jazz tunes (Elmo Hope, Sam Rivers), and one work from the American songbook (Frederick Loewe’s “Almost Like Being in Love”).  Seymour Reads the Constitution! is available for pre-order now at iTunes and the Nonesuch Store, where an instant download of the album track “Spiral“ is included with purchase. The album also can be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

The Trio’s previous release, Blues and Ballads (2016), received critical acclaim, with the Guardian saying, “Mehldau is a genius (and a still-improving one) at taking predictable materials to unpredictable destinations … These are old songs subjected to an old jazz method, but brought scintillatingly into the here and now.” Mehldau released the solo album After Bach earlier this year, comprising the pianist/composer’s recordings of four preludes and one fugue from J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, each followed by an “After Bach” piece written by Mehldau and inspired by its WTC mate. The Financial Times said of After Bach, “As each piece gathers momentum, fresh melodies emerge, change shape and are developed anew over voicings that shimmer, fade and rumble to a peak. And, following Bach, Mehldau’s improvisations unfold with an iron inner logic, a reminder … that Bach, in his day, was admired more for his abilities as an improviser than for his written scripts.”

Brad Mehldau’s Nonesuch debut was the 2004 solo disc Live in Tokyo. He has since released seven albums with his trio: House on Hill, Day Is Done, Brad Mehldau Trio Live, Ode, Where Do You Start, Blues and Ballads, and Seymour Reads the Constitution!. His collaborative records on the label include Love Sublime, Highway Rider, Metheny Mehldau, Metheny Mehldau Quartet, Modern Music, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, Nearness with Joshua Redman, and Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau. His additional solo albums on Nonesuch include Live in Marciac and the eight-LP/four-CD 10 Years Solo Live, which the New York Times says contains some of the most impressive pianism he has captured on record.”


Brad Mehldau Trio, Seymour Reads the Constitution!

 1. Spiral
Written by Brad Mehldau

2. Seymour Reads the Constitution!
Written by Brad Mehldau

3.  Almost Like Being in Love
Written by Frederick Loewe

4.  De-Dah
Written by Elmo Hope

5.  Friends
Written by Brian Wilson

6.  Ten Tune
Written by Brad Mehldau

7.  Great Day
Written by Paul McCartney

8.  Beatrice
Written by Sam Rivers


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Nonesuch Releases Brad Mehldau’s After Bach on March 9

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Nonesuch Releases Brad Mehldau’s After Bach on March 9

Album features selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier alongside Mehldau originals they inspired

“A balance of space and intensity perfectly struck … An unaccompanied performance split between respectfully straight recitals of several JS Bach classics, and densely dazzling compositions and improvisations inspired by them.”—Guardian

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Nonesuch releases Brad Mehldau’s After Bach on March 9, 2018. The album comprises the pianist/composer’s recordings of four preludes and one fugue from J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, each followed by an “After Bach” piece written by Mehldau and inspired by its WTC mate. The album begins with Mehldau’s own “Before Bach: Benediction” and ends with his “Prayer for Healing.” Pre-orders of After Bach are available now at iTunes and nonesuch.com and include an instant download of the album track “After Bach: Rondo.”

As Mehldau’s label mate Timo Andres says in his After Bach liner note, “As a professional organist, much of Bach’s work took the form of improvisation, and during his lifetime it was the virtuosity and complexity of these improvisations for which he was most admired … Some three centuries after the fact, Brad Mehldau takes up this tradition and applies it to a frustratingly unknowable aspect of Bach’s art.”

Andres continues, “There have always been elements of Mehldau’s style that recall Bach, especially his densely-woven voicing—but he’s not striving to imitate or play dress-up. Rather, After Bach surveys their shared ground as keyboardists, improvisers, and composers, making implicit parallels explicit.”

After Bach originated in a work Mehldau first performed in 2015—commissioned by Carnegie Hall, The Royal Conservatory of Music, The National Concert Hall, and Wigmore Hall—called Three Pieces After Bach.

Brad Mehldau’s Nonesuch 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, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, Nearness with Joshua Redman, and last year’s Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau. His additional solo albums on Nonesuch include Live in Marciac and the eight-LP/four-CD 10 Years Solo Live, which the New York Times says contains some of the most impressive pianism he has captured on record.” 

Brad Mehldau, After Bach

  1. Before Bach: Benediction
  2. Prelude No. 3 in C# Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 848
  3. After Bach: Rondo
  4. Prelude No. 1 in C Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II, BWV 870
  5. After Bach: Pastorale
  6. Prelude No. 10 in E Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 855
  7. After Bach: Flux
  8. Prelude and Fugue No. 12 in F Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 857
  9. After Bach: Dream
  10. Fugue No. 16 in G Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II, BWV 885
  11. After Bach: Ostinato
  12. Prayer for Healing

For more information, visit publicity.nonesuch.com or bradmehldau.com, or contact:
Melissa Cusick, Nonesuch Records, 212.707.2912 or melissa.cusick@nonesuch.com

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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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