From Bach and beyond

Brad Mehldau’s solo al­bum show­cases his mas­tery of im­pro­vi­sa­tion and Baroque form

BBC Music Magazine - - Jazz -

Brad Mehldau After Bach

Brad Mehldau (pi­ano)

None­such 075597931808 70 mins

JS Bach’s mu­sic has al­ways been the favourite clas­si­cal muse for jazz play­ers, though it can some­times be seen as a bit of fun rather than high art. Not for Amer­i­can pi­anist Brad Mehldau, who’s deadly se­ri­ous about his After Bach solo project. ‘There is no jazz­ing up Bach – it’s ei­ther the Bach pieces or some­thing from me,’ he de­clares. This pro­gramme, which came out of a com­mis­sion by New York’s Carnegie Hall and was pre­miered at Lon­don’s Wig­more Hall in 2015, com­prises four pre­ludes and one fugue from Bach’s Well-tem­pered Clavier, each paired with a re­sponse writ­ten and per­formed by Mehldau.

The longer orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ur­bane, are the main event for jazz ears. Their densely wo­ven twohanded runs with bit­ter sweet phras­ings and ac­cents are a richly sat­is­fy­ing coun­ter­point to the nu­anced but re­spect­ful Bach pieces. Stand­outs ‘Osti­nato’ and ‘Prayer For Heal­ing’ make a darkly lit coda to a deeply mov­ing trib­ute. ★★★★★

Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion: pi­anist Brad Mehldau en­joys the com­plex­ity of Bach

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