“I Am the Walrus,” from Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles, is out today, along with videos of Mehldau performing the song and discussing it at New York’s Village Vanguard, which you can watch here. The live solo album, due February 10, features interpretations of nine songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and one by George Harrison, plus a David Bowie classic that draws a connection between The Beatles and pop songwriters who followed.
“I Am the Walrus,” from Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles, is out today, along with videos of Brad Mehldau performing the song and discussing it at New York’s Village Vanguard, which you can watch below. The live solo album, due February 10 on Nonesuch Records, features the pianist and composer’s interpretations of nine songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and one by George Harrison. Although other Beatles songs have long been staples of Mehldau’s solo and trio shows, he had not previously recorded any of the tunes on Your Mother Should Know. The album ends with a David Bowie classic that draws a connection between The Beatles and pop songwriters who followed. Your Mother Should Know was recorded in September 2020 at Philharmonie de Paris. Mehldau returns to the Vanguard January 24–29.
“What I’ve always been struck by, with a lot of The Beatles music, particularly in that last stretch of records, is a strangeness: a strangeness in the harmony, in the form of the songs, in the length of the musical phrases, and of course in a lot of the subject matter, the lyrics themselves. So, I thought it would be fun, and a nice challenge as a pianist and an interpreter/arranger, to hone in on some of those stranger tunes,” Mehldau says.
“The album opens with an interpretation of ‘I Am the Walrus,’ from Magical Mystery Tour, and it’s definitely one of the stranger ones,” he continues. “I remember hearing it as a kid and I didn’t like it. It was unsettling to me. Of course, I grew into it as I got older.”
“‘I Am the Walrus’ opens with this introduction, which is right away pretty strange, harmonically. We hear this progression … most of that is a whole tone scale, the way it’s descending. It’s something you hear in impressionistic music. You don’t hear it in earlier classical music, and you don’t hear it too much in pop music, certainly.
“And then above that, you have this little melody that sort of snakes with it. Right away, it’s an introduction that says, ‘OK, this is an unusual song.’” Mehldau says, “It continues from there with John’s storytelling, which is kind of Dadaist in nature, stringing together these phrases where it’s up to us, the listener, to decide what he means.”
Brad Mehldau’s Nonesuch debut was the 2004 solo disc Live in Tokyo. His subsequent eighteen releases on the label include six records with his trio as well as collaborative and solo albums. His most recent releases are a pair of recordings with the original 1990s Joshua Redman Quartet, RoundAgain (2020) and LongGone (2022); Variations on a Melancholy Theme (2021), commissioned by and recorded with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; a solo album he recorded during COVID-19 lockdown, Suite: April 2020; and Jacob’s Ladder (2022), which featured music that reflects on scripture and the search for God through music and was inspired by the prog rock Mehldau loved as a young adolescent. On March 15, 2023, Equinox Publishing will publish Mehldau’s memoir Formation: Building a Personal Canon, Part I, a rare look inside the mind of an artist at the top of his field, in his own words.