BRAD MEHLDAU — Suite : April 2020 (review)

BRAD MEHLDAU — Suite : April 2020 album cover Album · 2020 · Third Stream Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
“Suite: April 2020” is Brad Mehldau’s attempt to capture his feelings during the pandemic while he and his family stayed home to keep from catching or spreading the infectious germs that were sweeping the world. There is of course a good bit of melancholic reflection, but also a small dose of joy that comes from time spent with family. It is a solo piano recording of course, so many solo albums came out during this time from many artists.

The first nine tracks are the highlight of the album. These tracks do flow much like a suite and you will probably find yourself listening to these as a whole, rather than as separate tracks. These are the tracks that dwell on the more somber side of the pandemic, the solitude and reflection that many of us went through. As through composed semi-classical piano pieces, these nine are quite brilliant and sound much like mid-20th century French neo-classical piano works, particularly recalling the piano compositions of Francis Poulenc. Any of these tone poems would hold up well in a contemporary classical concert. A couple tracks that follow are more light-hearted, almost silly, as they attempt to capture the feeling of family fun. These songs are okay, but unfortunately they break the hypnotic spell that Brad built during the first nine performances.

Next up, Mehldau performs an interesting cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”, introducing a bit of his trademark intertwining contrapuntal lines. This is followed by Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” which sounds like a fairly standard lounge version, maybe Brad wanted to leave the song alone and let it speak for itself. Apparently the closing number is a Mehldau original as there are no song writing credits given, but its title and music sound like a sentimental pop song from a bygone era. If you put together a CD that featured the first nine tracks plus the Neil Young cover and left the others out, you would have a more consistent suite.
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