Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Nonesuch
Jazz writers have long been comparing the (relatively) young pianist Brad Mehldau to the seasoned titan Keith Jarrett. And as is the case with many huge, sweeping comparisons, the truth tends to be a little on the grey side. Mehldau, like Jarrett, likes to take the stage with nothing but a grand piano and dazzle an audience with lengthy improvisations.
In the late 1990s, Brad Mehldau began turning his refined attention to the exacting art Keith Jarrett had dominated for so long: unaccompanied acoustic-piano improvisation. This set – released now as an eight-LP vinyl set, and on CD next month – features five hours of live solo Mehldau, a torrent of remodelled Beatles songs, Thelonious Monk tunes, jazz standards and Brahms intermezzos, organised here according to themes of mood, motive and musical structure. Despite this guiding hand through the enchanted forest of his virtuosity and lyrical ingenuity, it’s more likely that listeners will dip in and out of this slew of orchestrally rolling chordwork, tireless trills and corkscrewing contrapuntal playing.
Somewhere around the midpoint of “10 Years Solo Live,” his elegant, imposing new boxed set, the pianist Brad Mehldau settles into a song as if it were a vintage leather club chair. The track is “Holland,” by the indie troubadour Sufjan Stevens, and its drifting waltz tempo and bittersweet air feel perfectly in tune with Mr. Mehldau’s signature style, maybe even to a fault.