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Brad Mehldau / Thelonious Monk (Or, What is Music?)

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I just ordered his album Places after my jazz-piano teacher recommended him to me. I listened to the sample tracks and I really love his improv style especially on Places. In this album he seems to have a big classical influence which lends a clearer and more (dare I say it?) intellectual element to the pure feeling which defines great jazz. Because of this, I like him even more than Monk. Big statement, I know, but we'll see what I think after I get the album.

post #2 of 27
more than monk!?

yes, we will see......
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Well, I got the little UPS slip in my mailroom box yesterday, and surely enough, my CD was behind the counter along with my CDP lens-cleaner.

I've been listening to this CD a lot the past two days, and it's just great. This CD is made up of several solo performances and several trio recordings (piano, drums, bass). The music really is quite a mix between classical and jazz. Many influences, among which I would guess Debussy, Chopin, Liszt, and probably some others that I just don't recognize yet.

This music is just so great I don't know what to say. I really do think I like this music more than Monk's. At least listen to the samples on cdnow.com and amazon.com -- I believe there are even several free full-track downloads at amazon.com!
post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 
Well, as you can all now see, I've even changed my avatar to the Places cover. I wonder if this'll become a trend like it has for Jude! But seriously, it's the only thing I've been listening to for the past two days. We'll see what happens when my new Alban Berg or that Amazon.fr CD comes.
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 

An update...

Okay, I've just been listening to Thelonious Monk's Live at the "It" Club two-CD set (the second CD, specifically). I have to say that I no longer think that I prefer Mehldau. It's just that his work is different. The trio format he uses is very refreshing -- and I know this is blasphemy, but it sounds clearer and less "muddy" than with a sax behind the piano. The classical/jazz fusion he employs in his compositions/improvisations also give a certain "intellectual" sheen to the music. If you read his long essay in the booklet, you'll see that if there's one thing he wants to come off as, it's intellectual.

Monk's work sounds just as fantastic to me now as it did before -- in fact, maybe even more so. His music must, I feel, be classified strictly as jazz. The music has a very chordy-scaley feel to it, if you know what I mean -- a strong base in the older styles of blues and bee-bop. Monk's music is certainly creative, original, new (for his time), and probably progressive. But it still has the swingy feel of Miles Davis and Bill Evans, even if Monk's playing is (in my opinion) far more dynamic and timeless than Evans'.

Mehldau's music feels more like it could be transferred to oil on canvas. Of course, with an album like Places where each piece is intended to sketch a city or an aspect of it, this is to be expected. And because these two styles of music are so different, I feel very comfortable with both -- just like I still feel comfortable with Miles Davis and Bela Bartok.
post #6 of 27
Ah - so now we have seen

DanG, also look at all the posts in this thread - for a while there, you were, well.....talking to yourself
post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 
Vij: I was simply posting my impressions as they came! I got so caught up in the excitement of listening and judging Mehldau's work that I thought that people might be interested in a blow-by-blow account. I guess not.

But I'm glad you're interested, Vij!
post #8 of 27
Of course, I'm interested quite a lot.

How could you NOT be interested in jazz pianists?!
post #9 of 27
for a while there, you were, well.....talking to yourself
Yeah, he was being very Xander-like.

(just teasing, Xander )
post #10 of 27
Thread Starter 
Hey! Moderator solidarity, remember?
post #11 of 27
Can I be "solid" with ya mods, too?!


post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Blech... look at the direction of this thread! I was hoping to provoke a good discussion about what is Jazz, what is Classical, what makes Thelonious Monk timeless and Bill Evans not, etc. I didn't even get a single flame! I was hoping for more from you, Vij.

But no worries, I'm sure someone will step up to the plate. (ahem)
post #13 of 27
Well, personally, I think Bill Evans is an exceptionally talented pianist. Just like I think that Wynton Marsalis is an exceptionally talented trumpeter.


I like Monk more with the keys and Miles Davis more with trumpets because of the emotion provocation factor.... which I just made up.

Basically, I find Monk and Davis and others like them (THINK...oh, i dunno....TRANE!!!!) to be able to stimulate not just thought, but true emotion, with their music.

Evans and Marsalis invoke awe from me, OTH. Awe of their technical prowess - but not from the music they make.

That's just me.......
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
I hear what you're saying, Vij. With Mehldau's music, I feel that the structured nature of his compositions is what makes the music not just intellectually stimulating, but emotionally stimulating through the mind. I think I've mentioned this before, but my dad says he likes Bartok, but doesn't like listening to him all the time because it's not naturally enjoyable to him, per se. For me, though, Bartok just stirs me like few other composers' music. The Prokofiev piano concerto I'm listening to right now might well be classified as "mind music" by some, but to me it's just so enjoyable. I don't pretend to enjoy it to be snooty, but because it just feels so good to me.

With what I'd call "straight" jazz like Monk, Coltrane, Miles, et al., the music is emotional, but it doesn't really involve the mind as much. To me it feels more like relaxing music. I think that Monk gets away from this a bit although the saxophonist on the album I have (Charlie Rouse) is a far more conventional jazz musician than Monk, and thus detracts from Monk's unusual improvisations. Perhaps that's why Brad Mehldau either plays solo or with only a rhythm section (bass and drums). His work really has the feel of classical music (for most of Places, anyway) because it just sounds so... "clean" compared to more standard jazz. His music has that intellectual sheen, as I've mentioned before, which strikes at the heart both directly and through the mind.
post #15 of 27
I'm in total agreement with you, DanG - I really should check out Places.


With what I'd call "straight" jazz like Monk, Coltrane, Miles, et al., the music is emotional, but it doesn't really involve the mind as much.
I may be a fanatic, but I think you'd have to be insane to call Ascension, which isn't my favorite Coltrane album, STRAIGHT jazz

I do like, Ascension, tho....
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