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Shapeshifter, Brad Mehldau, goes beyond boundaries

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Tuesday November 04, 2014

From Irish Examiner

Shapeshifter, Brad Mehldau, goes beyond boundaries
By: Ed Power

Acclaimed jazz pianist Brad Mehldau talks to Ed Power about his influences, pop music, purists and all that jazz.

If you know one thing about jazz pianist Brad Mehldau it’s that he is partial to Radiohead. Four Grammy nominations and a succession of paradigm-redefining albums have made him an icon to jazz fans; nonetheless among general audiences it’s his penchant for covering arena rock’s grumpiest pin-ups that has gained him renown.

Jazz players can be sniffy about being co-opted by the mainstream – so you might expect Mehldau (44) to be unhappy about his association with a mere rock band. In fact he’s pleased to be known for performing the music of Radiohead, Massive Attack and others – albeit in extensively reshaped and heavily improvised form. Whatever gets the word out is fine by him.

“I think a lot of folks really like Radiohead, so that’s not so hard to explain – myself included,” he says of the attention focused on his rock reworkings. “It’s interesting when influences come from other genres. I don’t even really know what that word ‘genre’ means, exactly.”

Spend time with Mehldau and his music and the truth of that last statement becomes clear. Really, it is reductive and misleading to describe him as a jazz artist. On record and especially on stage, he veers all over the map, drawing not only on his passion for rock and roll but for classical music, acoustic pop … well, most everything really. He doesn’t consider this strange in the least: almost from the beginning jazz has located itself at the crossroads between widely flung influences. Mehldau is simply upholding a proud tradition.

To read the entire interview, click here