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Mehldau Solo Downbeat September

Mehldau Solo Downbeat September

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Published by Adrian Hagopian

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Published by: Adrian Hagopian on Dec 18, 2012
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07/07/2013

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80
doWNbeat
SEPTEMBER 2012
KEYBOARD SCHOOL
Woodshed
|
 
by MarK bayNeS
solo
b Mhlu’sPin Sl n‘Sk tunin g’
O
n “Sky Turning Grey (For Elliott Smith)”from Brad Mehldau’s 2010 CD
Highway Rider
(Nonesuch), the pianist elegantly fusesmusical connectivity with compositional sophis-tication. As is often the case with Mehldau’sgroove-based solos, instruments other than thepiano play a harmonic role, negating the prom-inence of Mehldau’s otherwise active left hand.Therefore, this transcription shows the treblestave only.The form is 64-bar AABC, where B and Cshare the same melody but different changes. Analmost constantly descending bass line is spelledout by Mehldau’s changes—largely a mixture of diatonic chords derived from the key, some tri-tone substitutions and elongated functional II-V-Icadences. An example of this harmony can befound at measures 14–17, where a II-V-I is playedin B
b
minor, however an E
b
m/B
b
extends the Chalf-diminished sound for a measure, before theV chord at measure 16.Mehldau’s improvisation evokes a sense of 
relaxed maturity and stylistic condence. Chorus
one includes strong references to the melody on aregular basis, such as measures 0, 6–7, 11, 16–18,26–28, 32, 40–41 and 55–60. There is muchantiphonal content, too. The opening phrase,
based on the rst two notes of the melody, is a
four-beat cell that is stated then answered duringbars 1 and 2. The next phrase starts at measure4, for two measures, and is answered during bars
6–7 before a blues gure at bar 8. Motivic repeti
-tion is heard in several places (e.g., bars 55–60);also, chromatic references can be heard through-out the improvisation, either acting transitional-ly or to approach chord tones. Mehldau introduc-
es harmonic imposition within the rst quarter
of chorus one by playing a line derived from C#Locrian #2 mode over a Cm7
b
5, effectively side-slipping up a semitone.In chorus two, an increased sense of intensi-ty and drive is achieved with rhythmical featuressuch as four-note chromatic or melodic triplets(bar 68). Mehldau employs tension by way of  juxtaposing uncommon note choices; at measure74, he plays an A and B, the sharp ninth and per-fect 4th of G
b
major. This precedes a D over a D
b
 
major chord in the next measure, spelling a atninth—all risky choices, but placed within a rm
melodic context, they work well. At measure 77,the solo culminates with a long 16th-note pas-sage from 77–80, then again at 87–89.
DB
marK baYnes Is a JaZZ pIanIst In aUcKLand, newZeaLand. he Is stUdYInG the mUsIc oF bradmehLdaU For a doctor oF mUsIcaL arts deGree at aUcKLand UnIVersItY. baYnes teaches at boththe new ZeaLand schooL oF mUsIc and aUcKLandUnIVersItY. VIsIt baYnes onLIne at JaZZpIano.co.nZ
b Mhlu

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