Suite: April 2020
Solo piano has long been an advantageous format for Brad Mehldau, but when the COVID-19 quarantine hit, it became the only possible format. And so Mehldau recorded this set of fairly short but meaningful pieces reflective of the time period, in the wake of a trio tour that got cut short. Like so many performing artists, Mehldau was forced to contemplate a loss of livelihood, the “hollow fear of an unknown future” as he states on the notes that adorn the album cover, but also “moments of revelation along the way” in a time of forced solitude and stillness.
The compositional mode is a 12-part suite, starting and ending with a stark simplicity but becoming more dense and dissonant in turn. The chunky chord patterns and intervals of “- the day moves by -” contrast with the drifting-apart bass and treble motion of “keeping distance,” the playful blues of “in the kitchen,” the pop-rock glide of “family harmony,” and the glimmering semi-classical lyricism of “remembering before all this.” After the suite is a three-part encore of sorts: apropos songs by Neil Young and Billy Joel and a much older one by Jerome Kern. “Look for the Silver Lining” is something many people did while stuck at home, but as Mehldau said in a radio interview, “I don’t think it’s in our sights.” It’s a point the pianist reflects with a master’s touch in an ending that leaves us hanging, refusing to resolve.