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