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A must-read review of Brad Mehldau's ‘10 Years Solo Live' from The New York Times!

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Thursday October 22, 2015

From The New York Times
By Nate Chinen

Brad Mehldau Evolves in ‘10 Years Solo Live,’ a New Boxed Set

Somewhere around the midpoint of “10 Years Solo Live,” his elegant, imposing new boxed set, the pianist Brad Mehldau settles into a song as if it were a vintage leather club chair. The track is “Holland,” by the indie troubadour Sufjan Stevens, and its drifting waltz tempo and bittersweet air feel perfectly in tune with Mr. Mehldau’s signature style, maybe even to a fault.

After five minutes of tasteful luxuriating, the song begins to take new dimensions: a darkening tone, a growing fixation on one tendril of melody from its medieval-sounding end refrain. We’re off and away by then, following a mind awhirl in creative reverie. Mr. Mehldau — tracing connections, making digressions, but never quite forsaking the original framework — sounds both grounded and almost boundless.

That performance, in its gradual unfolding and dramatic, expressive payoff, is roughly par for the course on “10 Years Solo Live” (Nonesuch), a compendium of eight LPs that Mr. Mehldau assembled from a decade’s worth of European concert recordings. (It will be offered digitally and as a four-CD set on Nov. 13.)

The music adds up to an ambitious self-portrait, finding rich possibility in a simple formula: “Short, small songs that get stretched out into bigger vehicles with grand expressive gestures,” as Mr. Mehldau writes in a thoughtfully didactic liner-note essay.

Mr. Mehldau, 45, has entered a mature and reflective phase of his art, which isn’t to imply that maturity and reflection were ever far from its core. Since “Introducing Brad Mehldau” appeared on Warner Bros. 20 years ago, he has arguably been the most widely influential pianist in jazz: You’ll find traces of his approach among a remarkably diverse coalition of younger players, from Fabian Almazan to Glenn Zaleski. (Sometimes you’ll find more than traces.)

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