Esteemed US pianist and prominent composer Brad Mehldau used his time wisely during the COVID-19 pandemic. At home with his family based in the Netherlands, Mehldau wrote a suite of 12 short compositions which drew upon his experiences during lockdown. It was conceived, as the title suggests, in April 2020. In addition to this suite are three covers that round off a short but sweet record – 40 minutes in total.
The focal point of this album is not Mehldau but the musicians struggling through this global crisis. Therefore, one thousand signed copies are being sold with proceeds being donated to the Jazz Foundation of America’s COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund.
As ever, Mehldau’s graceful touch continues to send me into deep reflection. The titles of each composition are named appropriately, such as III. keeping distance, V. remembering before all this and VI. uncertainty. Each homes in on individual thoughts and memories which are reflected the music.
Mehldau said “Suite: April 2020 is a musical snapshot of life the last month in the world in which we’ve all found ourselves. I’ve tried to portray on the piano some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us. In ‘keeping distance,’ for example, I traced the experience of two people social distancing, represented by the left and right hand – how they are unnaturally drawn apart, yet remain linked in some unexplainable, and perhaps illuminating way. As difficult as COVID-19 has been for many of us, there have been moments of revelation along the way. ‘stopping, listening: hearing’ highlights that moment as well.”
A standout is the final track, Look For The Silver Lining, written by Jerome Kern. Mehldau intentionally ends on the V chord, leaving the sound – and the situation – in an unresolved state. Perhaps there is not yet a silver lining. But the music is a positive product.
I. waking up; II. stepping outside; III. keeping distance; IV. stopping, listening: hearing; V. remembering before all this; VI. uncertainty; VII. – the day moves by –; VIII. yearning; IX. waiting; X. in the kitchen; XI. family harmony; XII. lullaby; Don’t Let It Bring You Down; New York State Of Mind; Look For The Silver Lining (40.20)
Brad Mehldau (p). Amsterdam, Netherlands, April 2020.