Brad Mehldau, born August 23, 1970, is a jazz pianist who has recorded and performed extensively since the early 1990’s. He has worked primarily with the same trio since 1995, featuring bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy. Mehldau’s most consistent output over the years has taken place in that band, due in no small part to the rapport between the three musicians, and the constant creative inspiration he receives from Grenadier and Rossy. Since 1996, they have released a series of five records on the Warner Brothers label entitled ‘The Art of the Trio’. Mehldau also has a solo piano recording entitled ‘Elegiac Cycle’, and a record called ‘Places’ that includes both solo piano and trio songs. ‘Elegiac Cycle’ and ‘Places’ might be called ‘concept’ albums. They are made up exclusively of original material and have central themes that hover over the compositions. There is ‘Largo’, a collaborative effort with the brilliant musician and producer Jon Brion. Mehldau’s most recent release, ‘Anything Goes’, is a return to the trio with Grenadier and Rossy.
Mehldau has two sides to his musical personality that form 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 is listening to how the 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 and 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-nineties, 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 playing and recording with his trio and solo, Mehldau has performed and recorded with a number of great jazz musicians, including a rewarding gig with saxophonist Joshua Redman’s band for two years, recording and concerts with Charlie Haden and Lee Konitz, and recording as a sideman with the likes of Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, and Charles Lloyd. For more than a decade, he has played and recorded with several musicians whom he respects greatly and are peers of his: the guitarists Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel, and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Mehldau has also appeared 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 composed an original soundtrack for the French film, ‘Ma Femme Est Une Actrice’. Mehldau’s latest project is a work commisoned by Carnegie Hall for voice and piano, to be performed in the spring of 2005, with the great classical soprano, Renee Fleming.