Brad Mehldau: After Bach II

Skilled pianist Mehldau plays Bach and his own freer tunes styled after Bach, perhaps offering a postmodern view of Bach and, nominally, jazz

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Mehldau describes this second album of Bach interpretations as another hybrid recording. It works on three levels, with pieces by Bach, compositions by Mehldau based on the work of Bach, and then some improvised pieces as well. Like so many other jazz musicians who have been inspired by Bach over the years, Mehldau approaches his project with a sense of reverence and willingness to learn from the great master of the baroque form.

The liner notes that accompany the CD are an excellent read – an essential part of understanding what is going on as the music unfolds. Essentially, in writing them, Mehldau explains the ever-changing nature of the relationship between Bach the composer and Mehldau himself as interpreter and performer. He is fascinated by the interplay between melody and harmony, and how Bach pushes performers to find out more about themselves through the process of studying and playing his work. It all reads and sounds a long way from the Jacques Loussier trio. “You are not playing Bach – Bach is playing you,” Mehldau concludes.

How does all this analysis translate into the performance? Typically, it is a meticulously crafted listen, with superb acoustics provided by Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts and the work of piano technician Barbara Renner. And yes, it is hard to know at times where Bach ends and Mehldau begins, nowhere more so than on the 14-minute Mehldau composition After Bach: Toccata, which fuses the technical brilliance and compositional genius of both men to brilliant effect.

Discography
Prelude To Prelude; Prelude No. 9 In E Major From The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 854; Prelude No. 6 In D Minor From The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1, BWV 851; After Bach: Toccata; Partita For Keyboard No. 4 In D Major, BWV 828 Allemande; After Bach: Cavatina; Prelude No. 20 In A Minor From The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1, BWV 865; Between Bach; Fugue No. 20 In A Minor From The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1, BWV 865; Intermezzo; Variations On Bach’s Goldberg Theme – Aria Like, Variation 1, Minor 5/8 a, Variation II, Minor 5/8 b, Variation III, Major 7/4, Variation IV, Breakbeat, Variation V, Jazz, Variation VI, Finale; Prelude No. 7 In E-Flat Major From The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1, BWV 852; Postlude (66.00)
Mehldau (p). Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA, 18-20 April 2017 and 21 June 2023.
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