Brad Mehldau's 10 Years Solo Live, here in a four-CD box set, is culled from live recordings made over a decade of the pianist's European solo concerts and "contains some of the most impressive pianism he has captured on record," says the New York Times. He is "a player with a stunning virtuosity and daring ability to mine far reaches of improvisation," raves All About Jazz. This is "a beautiful release/box from a unique pianist who continually shows what the piano can do." "Brad Mehldau is a magician," exclaims Record Collector. "Hearing the pianist in full flow during a live performance is ... nothing less than an awe-inspiring experience."
"[He] has forged a singular style that has not only enhanced jazz’s musical vocabulary but modernised it too … beautiful and direct …." —Mojo
"Brad Mehldau is the doyen of contemporary jazz pianists, an improviser whose instinctive, emotional command of the instrument is complemented by a formidable intellect. Without visible effort, he turns Broadway show tunes into pastoral rhapsodies and blues vamps into meditations on the meaning of life." —Guardian
Nonesuch Records releases Brad Mehldau's 10 Years Solo Live eight-LP vinyl box set October 16, 2015, and this four-CD and digital version of the same on November 13. The set is culled from 19 live recordings made over a decade of the pianist's European solo concerts and is divided into four thematic subsets: Dark/Light, The Concert, Intermezzo/Rückblick, and E Minor/E Major. 10 Years Solo Live will be released digitally and on CD the following month.
As Mehldau explains in his liner note for the album, "Although it totals around 300 minutes, the order of songs is not arbitrary, and I have tried to tell a story from beginning to end in the way I've sequenced it." He continues, "There is a theme and character given to each four-side set."
Of the Dark/Light theme, he says, "In concerts, I find that I contrast dark and light emotional energies and highlight the way they depend on each other. Sides 1–4 focus on this dichotomy in pairs, beginning with the dark energy of Jeff Buckley's 'Dream Brother,' which is followed by the grace of Lennon/McCartney's 'Blackbird.'" He further says, "Although the songs on Sides 5–8 (The Concert) come from different concerts, on this set, I arranged them in a sequence similar to that I would perform in a single concert in 2010–11," he continues.
"The third set could be thought of as Intermezzo and Rückblick–like in character. I'm thinking of the penultimate movement of Brahms's Third Piano Sonata with that title. Rückblick means a look backward, perhaps a reappraisal. Brahms's Intermezzo movement was a look back at what had taken place in his Sonata before moving to the final movement. Here, the listener is invited to look back to music that was recorded 10 or more years ago, in 2004 and 2005." Mehldau explains that his approach to the sequence of the fourth set "is to focus on the rub between the keys of E minor and E major. I return to the theme of dark and light from the first set, now allowing the listener to focus on how 'dark' and 'light' might manifest in tonality."
Brad Mehldau played in a number of different ensembles, including label mate Joshua Redman's quartet, before becoming a bandleader himself in the 1990s. The Brad Mehldau Trio made eight recordings for Warner Bros., including the five Art of the Trio albums with former drummer Jorge Rossy (released as a boxed set by Nonesuch in 2011). The pianist's years with Nonesuch have been equally productive, beginning in 2004 with the solo disc Live in Tokyo and including five trio records—Day Is Done, House on Hill, Live, Ode, and Where Do You Start—as well as a collaboration with soprano Renée Fleming, Love Sublime; a chamber ensemble album, Highway Rider; two collaborations with label mate Pat Metheny, Metheny Mehldau and Quartet; a CD/DVD set of live solo performances, Live in Marciac; and collaborations with Kevin Hays and Patrick Zimmerli on Modern Music. Last year, Nonesuch released the debut from Mehldau's electric duo with Mark Guiliana, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon. He also produced Redman's 2013 release Walking Shadows.
Mehldau has performed around the world at a steady pace for 25 years, with his trio, with other collaborators, and as a solo pianist, building a large and loyal audience. "It is actually strange, this whole business of performance. It is a direct, intense kind of empathy with a group of total strangers that lasts around 90 minutes. And then, it's over, and everyone goes home. I go back to a hotel room and go to bed," the pianist says in his 10 Years Solo Live note. "Something happened, but what was most vital about it can't really be put in words. It is sweet, kind of bittersweet. In any case, it is not enough to say that the different audiences were important for the creation of this music. They were absolutely necessary; they were pivotal. Without those audiences, this music would not exist in the way it does."
All tracks/concerts recorded live by Vincent Rousseau except:
Side 10, track 2: Courtesy of Radio France. Engineer: Franck Malabry. Executive Producer: Xavier Prévost, radio producer at France Musique/Radio France.
Disc 3, tracks 8–11: Courtesy of the BBC program Jazz on 3, a Somethin’ Else Production for BBC Radio 3. Producer: Russell Finch. Engineer: Paul Nickson.
Disc 1, track 1: November 5, 2013 at the Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, Hungary
Disc 1, track 2: September 18, 2011 at Auditorio Palau de Congressos, Sala Cambra, Girona, Spain
Disc 1, track 3; disc 2, track 7: September 17, 2011 at Oper Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
Disc 1, track 4; disc 4, track 4: March 10, 2014 at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Disc 1, track 5; disc 2, track 6: November 8, 2013 at Théâtre de Vevey, Vevey, Switzerland
Disc 1, tracks 6, 7; disc 2, track 1: March 16, 2010 at Conservatoire de Musique, Luxembourg
Disc 2, track 2: July 15, 2010 at Castello degli Ezzelini, Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Disc 2, track 3: October 30, 2010 at Shiftung Mozarteum Großer Saal, Salzburg, Austria
Disc 2, track 4: March 17, 2010 at Muzeikgebouw Eindhoven, Frits Philipshal, Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Disc 2, track 5; disc 4, track 6: June 9, 2011 at Wiener Konzerthaus, Mozartsaal, Vienna, Austria
Disc 2, track 8; disc 3, track 6: March 29, 2011 at Auditorium Parco della Musica, Sala Sinopoli, Rome, Italy
Disc 3, tracks 1–3, 5: July 10, 2005 at Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark
Disc 3, track 4: August 5, 2004 at the Menton Music Festival, Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange, Menton, France
Disc 3, track 7: June 7, 2011 at Stadttheatre, Wels, Austria
Disc 3, tracks 8–11: November 17, 2004 at Wigmore Hall, London, England
Disc 4, track 1: September 10, 2011 at Cité de la Musique, Salle Pleyel, Paris, France
Disc 4, track 5: September 18, 2011 at Auditorio Palau de Congressos, Sala de Cambra, Girona, Spain
Disc 4, track 2: March 29, 2011 at Auditorium Parco della Musica, Sala Sinopoli, Rome, Italy
Disc 4, track 3: March 25, 2011 at Sociedad Filarmonica de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
Mixed by Vincent Mahey and Vincent Rousseau at Studio Sextan, Malakoff, France
Assisted by Mehdi Chefai, Laurent Guiguonet, Clement Labre
Editing and album compiling by Vincent Mahey at Studio Sextan
Mastered by Raphaël Jonin at J RAPH i.n.g., Bois-Colombes, France
Assisted by Maël Vallin
Design by John Gall Design
Photography by Michael Wilson
Brad Mehldau, piano