The return of Brad Mehldau at Umbria Jazz is always an important event. The Festival audience has proved to be fond of this extraordinary poetic pianist since his debut with his trio in 1997 with a legendary series of concerts in a small hall. Mehldau had already been at the Festival a few years earlier with Joshua Redman’s quartet, performing at San Francesco al Prato (1994) and the first edition of Umbria Jazz Winter (1993). Mehldau is one of the few musicians who bring people back to the essence and the true meaning of music, which is to produce emotions. No mastery or virtuosity can replace the ability to move, which is typical of great music. Much more than playing notes.
The trio is Brad Mehldau’s identifying formula, which, according to his fans, describes his artistic mission. Over the years, Brad has expressed and pursued different interests. He has explored forms of academic inspiration by collaborating with symphony orchestras and opera singers and, on the opposite side, more modern sounds using keyboards and other electronic instruments. Mehldau has played with jazz legends such as Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Lee Konitz, Charles Lloyd, Wayne Shorter, and musicians with different artistic backgrounds, such as Willie Nelson and Chris Thile. And each time, he could immerse himself in apparently distant sound universes yet well included in an all-embracing musical universe.
His piano-solo production remains central – an emotional and complex music – in which the improvisation of the jazzman matches with monumental classical-style architectures. A long series of albums document this production. The latest one is a reinterpretation of The Beatles’ songs. Before this album, Mehldau released “Suite: April 2020”, recorded during the pandemic as a sound reflection on the different moments of a lockdown day at home and, three years ago, “After Bach”, in which he places “The Well-Tempered Clavier” at the center of his poetics, with courage and respect.
The trio holds a special place in his artistic career. A small but great band with an extremely strong artistic identity. In the modern idea of the piano trio, everything goes through a miraculous balance of its elements based on a democratically even interplay. The Brad Mehldau Trio is a perfect example, and the mutual “understanding” among the pianist, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard is absolute. Out of the ritualistic mysticism of jam sessions, great jazz music has always been based on stable bands that build their creative architecture night after night, album after album.