Monday, January 23, 2006

Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett and Bach

Someone wrote the statement:
"When I hear him(Brad Mehldau), I often think of both Dexter Gordon and Monk(Thelonious Monk)"

I wrote back through email:

Actually, in his liner notes, Brad mentions Monk as one of his influences and somewhat as a "precursor" for what he is doing with his piano playing and his trio. Using different time meters and such. Right after reading his notes, I saw a documentary on Monk and I must say that the similarities are there but I am not saying "Brad trying to sound like Monk" but rather the way they stretch time, compress it and appreciate space and their appreciation for melody and how they use the melody to develop something fresh. Obviously Brad has other influences but there are similarities there and you picked up on it.

Brad and Keith both hear music in a unique way and express it in a way that belongs solely to them and it is a way of _expression that is totally coherent. After seeing Brad live a couple of times, I went back and listened to his music again and I was able to appreciate it even more so.

To really appreciate Keith and/or Brad, there has to be a certain familiarity with their music, with their body of work. Hearing some of their songs for the first time might be difficult for some. But taken in with the context of their entire body, it all starts to make sense.

But both of those guys have a serious appreciation for the entire history of the Keyboard. This appreciation is heard when they make references to certain artists and genres(Bach, Russian artists, gospel music, blues etc...) while they are playing. Depending on a person's personal education of the keyboard we hear the references. There is really no limits for these guys. It has been said that when Bach wrote solo music for the keyboard he was actually thinking of other things beside the keyboard: "he would write in imitation or evocation of a trio sonata, an accompanied soloist, or a concerto grosso; whether it uses a cellolike continuo bass; and so forth."- Richard Troeger, Playing Bach on the Keyboard.

He would often write something that was more of a French style or Italian style. He could use a chordal style, orchestral style or a loose and highly varied homophony. He would even write a solo keyboard piece in imitation of a small ensemble. Bach's Präludium Nr.10 e-moll BWV855 from the WTC "began life as an example of simple continuo style and was transformed into a texture suggesting bass line, continuo chords, and solo violin." Richard Troeger, Playing Bach on the Keyboard.

Now, I fully appreciate why KJ has often said that horn players have been a great influence on his playing, perhaps at some time when he is playing, he is actually imitating certain instruments and at other times perhaps imitating something else.

From what I've seen of Brad, he thinks from a very orchestral and structural standpoint. And as you mentioned perhaps at times also he is thinking of Dexter as well. His commanding orchestral approach to the piano is becoming more polished and even more intense. But from all of the recording I have, his approach is always elegant. I think he is at the point where he has mastered the adage of "knowing when to say when." Personally, I think Bach said it best "It's a matter of striking the notes at exactly the right moment."

PD

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