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Brad Mehldau on the Classical/Jazz Divide

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Thursday February 24, 2011

From The Thread

Brad Mehldau on the Classical/Jazz Divide
By Darren Mueller

It’s an understatement to say that jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has eclectic musical interests. He’s collaborated with opera star Renée Fleming (Love Sublime), performed with John Mayer, recorded his own far-reaching compositions on albums like Places, Largo, and Highway Rider, and arranged jazz trio versions of pop songs by Radiohead, Nick Drake, Oasis, Soundgarden, Paul Simon, and others. Oh yeah, he can play standards pretty well too.

There has been much made recently—and rightfully so—of Mehldau’s cross-genre projects. “With the exception of Wynton Marsalis,” Ted Panken began his cover story in the March 2011 issue Downbeat, “it’s difficult to think of a musician possessing greater bona fides in the classical and jazz arenas [than Brad Mehldau].” Though there is a bit of hyperbole in this statement—Marsalis has nine Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, is a NEA Jazz Master, has 30 honorary degrees, and has received an endless number of other awards—Mehldau is the first jazz musician to hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall.

Duke Performances will welcome Mehldau and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter to Duke’s campus on Feb. 27 to perform, among other things, the pianist’s Carnegie Hall-commissioned song cycle written specifically for von Otter. Though this concert will be an artistic collaboration across music boundaries, I was surprised to learn how demarcated the set list will be in terms of those boundaries. Von Otter and Mehldau will be performing works by Johannes Brahms, John Lennon, Edvard Grieg, Michael Legrand, Joni Mitchel, Richard Strauss, Jean Sibelius, and of course, the cycle by Mehldau himself, but the concert is organized precisely around genre.

Read the entire interview here