Brad Mehldau's musical personality forms a dichotomy. He is first and foremost an
improviser, and greatly cherishes the surprise and wonder that occur from a spontaneous
musical idea that is expressed directly, in real time. But he also has a deep fascination
with the formal architecture of music, and it informs everything he plays. He listens to
how ideas unwind, and the order in which they reveal themselves. 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.
As a jazz pianist, 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. 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. 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, Live in Tokyo, was released in September 2004.
After 10 rewarding years with Rossy playing in Mehldau's regular trio, drummer Jeff Ballard
joined the band in 2005. The label released its first album by Mehldau's trio, Day is
Done, in September 2005. An exciting double live trio recording entitled Brad
Mehldau Trio Live was released in March 2008 to critical acclaim. Two years later,
Nonesuch released a double-disc of original work entitled Highway Rider, the
highly anticipated follow up to Largo. The album is Mehldau's second collaboration
with renowned producer Jon Brion and features performances by Mehldau's trio, percussionist
Matt Chamberlain, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and a chamber orchestra led by Dan
In addition to his trio and solo projects, Mehldau has worked with a number jazz greats,
including a rewarding gig with Redman's band for two years; recordings and concerts with
Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Lee Konitz; and recordings as a sideman with 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 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 motion pictures, including Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and Wim
Wenders's The Million Dollar Hotel. He also composed an original soundtrack for
the French film Ma femme est une actrice.
Mehldau recently 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 classical soprano Renée Fleming. These songs were
recorded with Ms. 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, set to poems of Sara Teasdale, premiered in
2009. In addition to their album Love Songs, a selection of French, American,
English, and Swedish songs that Mehldau and von Otter performed together was released in
Mehldau was appointed as curator of an annual four-concert jazz series at London's
prestigious Wigmore Hall during its 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons, with Mehldau appearing
in at least two of the four annual concerts.
Follow Mr. Mehldau's composer-in-residence blog at carnegiehall.org/mehldau.