Jazz musicians and educators always make comparisons between jazz improvisation and language. They talk of expanding one’s “jazz vocabulary” and “pacing” one’s solos effectively. They say that the best solos “tell a story.” In this way, the jazz soloist is analogous a rhetorician giving an improvised speech, attempting saying something meaningful to the audience. But sometimes, as is often the case with many of my favorite recordings, the artist seems engage in a soliloquy, full of introverted reflections. To name off the top of my head some musicians who do this a lot — Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, and Bill Evans.
Brad Mehldau’s live recording of “My Favorite Things” is one such recording, and it’s one that means a lot to me both aesthetically and philosophically: the music itself simply sounds beautiful, and the emotions and thoughts it invokes in me are profound. Here is a link to the piece.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mehldau said:
“One fun surprise of this concert was “My Favorite Things.” It was not something I had played before – the Coltrane version is sacred to me. But I was going out for an encore and thought of it at the last moment, and it turned out to be for me anyways, one of the more compelling performances in the set – it had that story to it; it just kind of unfolded. Sometimes you find that and sometimes you don’t; sometimes you find it with no preparation or context at all and those moments are always great for me.”
The piece seems even more impressive considering that it was spontaneous. But I guess you can hear that in the recording, how it progresses so naturally from a simple introduction to a compelling climax down to an ending. The recording really does sound like a soliloquy. We seem to be hearing the depths of Mehldau’s consciousness expressed musically. You know, those deep thoughts that exist but remain unknown to us until, in solitude, they gradually become lucid. This happens to me a lot during walks in quiet, peaceful places. For artists, I would imagine it happens during those rare instances of perfect artistic inspiration.
I listen to this piece a lot when I’m feeling melancholic, introverted, thoughtful, nostalgic, or any other feeling that would make me temporarily anti-social and weird. Anyhow, I thought I’d share this piece. Hopefully you hear something in it that you can relate to.