'After Bach' Offers Brad Mehldau's Well-Tempered Jazz : Deceptive Cadence Inspired by J.S. Bach, jazz pianist Brad Mehldau alternates originals from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier with his own reinventions.
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'After Bach' Offers Brad Mehldau's Well-Tempered Jazz

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'After Bach' Offers Brad Mehldau's Well-Tempered Jazz

'After Bach' Offers Brad Mehldau's Well-Tempered Jazz

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(SOUNDBITE OF GLENN GOULD PERFORMANCE OF BACH'S "FUGUE NO. 16 IN G MINOR, BWV 861")

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

That's Glenn Gould playing "Fugue No. 16 In G Minor" from the second book of "The Well-Tempered Clavier." Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book in 1722. At that time, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues in that book were, quote, "for the prophet and use of musical youth desirous of learning and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study." Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau fits into the latter category, those already skilled.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "AFTER BACH: OSTINATO")

SHAPIRO: On his new album "After Bach," Mehldau plays pieces from "The Well-Tempered Clavier" followed by original works that were inspired by those pieces. Tom Moon has this review.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Music historians talk about Bach as dizzyingly prolific, creating thousands of pieces before he died at the age of 65. And not everything was written down. Some of his works began as improvisations. He'd start with a small motif or chord sequence and develop music extemporaneously, doing the baroque version of riffing. It's an approach to music making that a jazz player like Brad Mehldau understands intuitively.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "PRELUDE NO. 3 IN C# MAJOR FROM THE WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER BOOK I, BMV 848")

MOON: On his new album, Mehldau interprets sections of "The Well-Tempered Clavier" like this prelude as written. Then using Bach's cadences and melodies as a starting point, he goes exploring.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "AFTER BACH: RONDO")

MOON: As in Bach, there are recurring themes and brainy, high-wire-act elaborations. But Mehldau weaves in ear-stretching modulations and sudden swerves that darken the mood.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "AFTER BACH: RONDO")

MOON: It's the air-tight harmonic logic of Bach gently pried apart by a modern musician who's fluent in jazz, the Beatles, electronic music.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "AFTER BACH: DREAM")

MOON: The cover image of "After Bach" is a black-and-white picture of a massive spiral staircase shot from below by the late photographer Peter Marlow. It's an apt image. It captures the supreme order of Bach's music and also its sense of endless, possibly infinite variation, a quality Brad Mehldau celebrates with his originals on this collection.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "AFTER BACH: DREAM")

MOON: When you think about it, pretty much everything in modern music comes after Bach. And somehow incredibly, three centuries later, there is still new inspiration to be found inside his long shadow.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "AFTER BACH: FLUX")

SHAPIRO: That was Tom Moon reviewing Brad Mehldau's latest album, "After Bach."

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