On Nov. 13, Brad Mehldau will release a 4-CD boxed set of his solo piano improvisations. It’s called ’10 Years Solo Live’ and is drawn from various concerts over the past 10 years it will also be available digitally).
Mehldau is an astonishing pianist on many levels. Besides being a wonderful and accomplished jazz pianist, he was one of the first pianists to successfully bring an improvisational sensibility to playing alternative and other recent rock styles on piano. Check out how he plays Kurt Cobain’s “Lithium.”
While reading the NY Times article announcing the new album’s release, I was struck by something Mehldau said about his new approach to improvising on tunes:
“I am no longer relying on the structure of the song for my improvisation, in the classic jazz manner of theme and variations, but instead am using pieces of the melody as motific jumping-off points, and then allowing the harmony to follow in a freer manner.”
This approach was originally developed in the late 1950s and 60s by musicians such as Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman. But even though decades have passed since then, it hasn’t become mainstream in any influential way. I’ll be interested to hear how Mehldau uses this approach in his latest release!
Here’s a little more about Ornette Coleman.