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Brad Mehldau: 10 Years Solo Live

The solo piano box set of this or most other years is conceivably the finest product Brad Mehldau has released yet, a veritable library for jazz study unto itself. It’s also, as the kids say, ginormous: eight vinyl LPs-or four CDs-broken down into four thematic groupings that examine the contrast between light and dark, major keys and minor, and the notion of revisiting and what we might think of as a solo-concert-in-the-life outing.

There are 300 minutes of music to work through, and while Mehldau reveals himself an expert sequencer, as if he’s curating a museum exhibit that leads one through the galleries in the most enriching way, this is a box where cherry-picking is also fun. The covers are brave and revealing choices, like the opening take on Jeff Buckley’s “Dream Brother,” which encapsulates a lot of what will transpire throughout the set. Mehldau has no reservations building into a number like this, refusing to rush the pace and letting a single-note pulse work as an emotional metronome before the layering really begins. Mehldau has a fondness for the songs of Lennon and McCartney, which isn’t surprising given how their melodies would often house chord progressions and modulations that went beyond the daring of their contemporaries-the perfect conceptual suitor, then, for Mehldau’s own playing. He treats the melody of “And I Love Her” like a narrative ripe to have new stories written into it, and to hear this acoustic number from the height of Beatlemania take on new life as a fugue-like construction is to hear Mehldau travel back to Bachian times via Liverpudlian pop stylings.

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