Search - Brad Mehldau :: Highway Rider

Highway Rider
Brad Mehldau
Highway Rider
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #2

Nonesuch Records releases 'Highway Rider' a double-disc of original work by pianist and composer Brad Mehldau on March 16, 2010. The album is his second collaboration with renowned producer Jon Brion and features performan...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Brad Mehldau
Title: Highway Rider
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Nonesuch
Original Release Date: 1/1/2010
Re-Release Date: 3/16/2010
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 075597982701


Product Description
Nonesuch Records releases 'Highway Rider' a double-disc of original work by pianist and composer Brad Mehldau on March 16, 2010. The album is his second collaboration with renowned producer Jon Brion and features performances by Mehldau's trio, drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier as well as drummer Matt Chamberlain, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and a chamber orchestra led by Dan Coleman. Mehldau also orchestrated and arranged the album's 15 pieces for the ensemble.

In a Nonesuch Store Exclusive, orders of the album through include as a bonus track a demo Mehldau recorded for Brion early on in the album's development, in which Mehldau explains how he'd like for the title track to unfold and offers a run-through on piano. Also included, as with almost all orders in the Nonesuch Store, is the complete album as audiophile-quality 320 kbps MP3's.

Although Brad Mehldau is best known as a jazz composer and improviser, he has written several long-form compositions and songs, including an orchestral piece called 'The Brady Bunch Variations' for the Orchestre National d'Île-de-France and two Carnegie Hall commissions: 'Love Songs' for mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and 'Love Sublime' for soprano Renée Fleming.

'It's so exciting to write something and have it in your head and then hear it for the first time being played by these magnificent musicians,' he says. 'It s really an emotional experience. I'm still reeling from it.'

'For me, the biggest challenge was the orchestration; which notes to assign to what instruments. I've been studying lots of orchestral scores for a while now-Strauss, Brahms, Tchaikovsky; a lot of big romantic stuff in particular. But while I was writing, I was also listening closely to modern orchestrators and arrangers, and there are two who have made an impact on me especially François Rauber in his work with Jacques Brel, and Bob Alcivar in his work with Tom Waits.'

Jon Brion also produced Mehldau's 2002 album 'Largo,' and Mehldau had been hoping to work with him again since then. 'I knew from working with Jon on 'Largo' that he was the guy who would find a way to put all the pieces together for this project. It was really quite a beast sonically at some points-two drummers playing at the same time, bass, sax, and piano, and then the orchestra on top of that. I wanted to record everything live whenever possible but wasn't sure if we could do it. The first conversation with Jon about the music, that was for him a done deal it had to be live, with the orchestra and the jazz group playing together. Jon had the foresight during the recording, and then a great deal of craft during the mixing, to bring it all together and sound like it does. And we were able to avoid what the conductor Dan Coleman jokingly referred to as 'disco strings' that is, adding the orchestra onto the jazz group's performance after the fact.'

'Largo' was a step in a new direction for the pianist, incorporating horns, strings, vibes, and electronic instruments as well as Brion's unique production touches. As Brion points out, though, 'This time around, having done these classical things of late, and these different commissioned pieces he's had to write was a completely different thing. It s like, 'OK, I know what I learned from doing that last one. This time I have a specific angle.''

CD Reviews

Highway Rider through a variety of landscapes
A. Zona | 03/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This double-CD release from Brad Mehldau offers a variety of settings: Brad solo piano (one track); duet between Brad and Joshua Redman on tenor sax (one track); Mehldau trio (Larry Grenadier on acoustic bass and either Jeff Ballard and/or Matt Chamberlain on drums and/or percussions) (three tracks); Mehldau trio plus Joshua Redman (three tracks); Mehldau trio plus Joshua Redman and a chamber orchestra (five tracks); two tracks with the chamber orchestra only. Settings assorted as to describe a variety of landscapes, from joyful atmospheres to dark scenarios in a continuous up and down of sounds and musical ideas (all Brad original compositions). A musical travel between the easier pieces in trio and with Redman (in some ways vaguely recalling their Moodswing 1994 recording) to the slower and often shady orchestral parts. If you like the more conventional jazz releases of Mehldau (solo, trio, duo and quartet with Pat Metheny, duo with Joel Frahm 2004 Don't Explain) and you were disappointed by his 2001 release Largo, maybe this Highway Rider is not for you. If you enjoyed Brad jazz releases as well as Largo, maybe you will like HR too. Just keep in mind that HR is not Largo Part 2 (even if both releases have in common the same producer). While in Largo there is an homogeneous music presentation and you know you are listening to rock-influenced jazz, in HR you are travelling between modern acoustic jazz and something more similar to contemporary classical music with jazz contaminations. Whichever the case, just one attention: HR requires repeated listening to be fully appreciated. At first it's easy to be disoriented by its unpredictability.

One additional comment about sound quality: the music was edited and mixed with some unnatural stereo positioning of instruments and dynamic compression. A similar (but heavier) approach was also used in Largo. The result is less pleasant as compared to other productions capturing the natural ambience of the recording location and the full dynamic range of instruments. Full marks to the music for its originality, 3.5 stars to the recorded sound."
A profound iconic work that will go down as one of the most
Matthew | Green Bay, WI | 04/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Brad Mehldau has been hailed as one of the greatest jazz pianists since he came on the scene in the 90's and for good reason. His largest audience came with the 2002 release "Largo", a genre bending album, that got him the most attention and introduced a new audience (although polarizing some fans...likely the same kind of people who whined when Dylan plugged in) to Mehldau's work. The experimentation on the record was exciting and fresh, but he was soon back to his more traditional style with the self-assured straight-ahead (yet very rewarding) album "Anything Goes"(2004).

Now after numerous trio recordings, solo outings and collaborations, Brad Mehldau and Jon Brion bring us "Highway Rider", the highly anticipated sequel to Largo. Highway Rider is an album that really needs to be appreciated without any distractions, and preferably on nice equipment. This album was very uniquely recorded and sonically sounds different than almost anything I've ever heard. The nuances on this record are extremely important. When I sat down and listened to the record for the first time I was shocked when the orchestra suddenly crept into the trio soundscape. It is truly overwhelming. This is not "Charlie Parker with Strings" or any overtly-commercial type orchestration by any means. Think more along the lines of Phillip Glass. This is serious and intense material. These compositions are relentless in their dissonance, yet there are many beautiful moments that arrive out of this chaos. All of Mehldau's compositions on this album work together as a body of work, and all of the musicians and the orchestra are all of one voice in a way that no other orchestra/jazz album has ever done successfully. This work is truly a journey. You will hear singing, children's voices, adult voices ,sounds of laughter, sounds of instruments of all kinds; sounds of pain and joy run throughout this entire work. With so many people in the studio the danger is that things can sound fragmented, but that rarely happens on this project. When considering the cover art; thematically this album deals with the struggle of living the American dream, isolationism, the shattered illusions of a post tech-boom society, and the confusion and loss over America's unique identity in a overly-corporate society. But it's also a very personal story as well (see Mehldau's notes for the album on his website). It's comparable to works like Springsteen's Born to Run, The Great Gatsby, or On the Road.

Initially I wasn't sure what to expect out of this 2-CD set, but I figured that it wouldn't be able to match the originality of "Largo". This album is of a completely different caliber. This work is ambitious, groundbreaking, and visionary. With all due respect to all of the other great pianists working in jazz today, I don't know how anyone can respond to this. Mehldau has set the bar so high that he will be hard to touch. I suppose some will sweep this album under the rug as an "interesting experiment" and write off the album's conceptual nature, but show me an album that will be more influential than this one 10, even 20 years down the line. No other pianist or artist out there continues to reinvent the genre like Mehldau. Nobody has ever made a record like this. This album only solidifies his place in jazz as a genius and his newfound muse as a composer.

Highway Rider has changed the game. Those few people who have been negative towards the album desparately want the attention for knocking down jazz's modern genius, but even they must know deep down inside that this work is profound. Not only the greatest jazz album since Wayne Shorter's "Footprints Live" in my opinion, but also what will become one of the most important recordings of the 21st century. I did not expect anybody to make an iconic jazz recording in this day and age and was literally in shock for hours after I finished listening to it. Although Mehldau, like every musician, owes a lot to his predecessors (Fred Hirsch, Evans, Monk, and countless others), it's fair to say he has accomplished enough on his own to place him as one of the greatest pianists and jazz musicians of all time."
A Artistic Peak For Mehldau
Anthony R. Guarriello | Rutherfordton NC | 03/22/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This album represents Brad Mehldau's fine ability as a composer,player & orchestrater. Mehldau is joined once again with producer Jon Brion who's first record with Melhdau 2001's Largo in my opinion was a semi success. I believe this time around with Highway Rider the nine years of experience & several classical pieces Melhdau has written have given him the right tools to tackle a wide ranging project such as this. Highway Rider presents the listener with a wide variety of musical settings, solo piano, piano trio,trio with orchestra, & trio with orchestra with guest saxophonist Joshua Redman. Mehldau is working with familiar personal his regular working trio with Larry Grenadier on bass & Jeff Ballard on drums. Drummer Matt Chamberlin worked on the Largo album returns to add his touch to a few tracks & after a long hiatus Mehldau brought sax man Joshua Redman in on tenor & soprano. After several hearings I'v come to conclude that this album is a watershed for Mehldau a definite artistic peak. This music flows in a continuos suite sort of way, each tune picking up where the previous left off & building to the climax of the album which in my opinion is the first track on disc two which happens to be the albums longest piece clocking in at 12 minutes. My only problem with this album is I wish the tracks especially on disc 1 had been just a bit longer, I feel they could have been developed alittle more but that is just me. This music falls in line with stuff like Bill Evan's album Symbiosis or Danilo Perez's Across The Crystal Sea but I think this album surpasses those as far as continuity & I like the way Mehldau uses Joshua Redman out in front of the orchestra as a soloist, it's not a sound that is featured very often. Redman rises to the challenge and his playing for me is a highlight of the album. I also hear some elements of Chick Corea's writing especially his use of hand claps & voices & foot stomping, this percussive element really enhances the music for me giving it a earthy funky feel which is such a cool contrast alongside the strings. I highly recommend this album to anyone with a open mind & a appetite for fresh good music. Enjoy!"