© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source. Celebrating 75 Years!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Watch Brad Mehldau play the title cut from his tribute to The Beatles

Nonesuch Records

Brad Mehldau has always, it seems, found sustenance in the music of The Beatles. His elegant take on "Blackbird" appeared on The Art of the Trio Vol. 1 back in 1997, and he has sprinkled Lennon-McCartney songs through his sets ever since. Now he's about to make it official, with Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles, a solo concert album that Nonesuch will release on Feb. 10, 2023.

The announcement came this morning, though Mehldau let the news slip, generally speaking, during his September engagement at The Village Vanguard. After catching a set well furnished with Beatles tunes — "If I Needed Someone," "Golden Slumbers" and "Dear Prudence" among them — I wrote about it, with enthusiasm.

At some point during his Vanguard residency, Mehldau sat for a video shoot at the piano, explaining his lifelong relationship with The Beatles — and in particular, the influence they had on artists that formed his early taste, like Billy Joel and Elton John. Among other things, Mehldau says The Beatles infused their music with an element of swing.

"It's a little risky, because swing is such an elemental thing to jazz and to Black American Music," he adds. "Still, I'm going to use that word and really give it a caveat — that it's not exactly the same thing — in reference to a couple of the Beatles songs I did on this record." He goes on to play one of those: Paul McCartney's "Your Mother Should Know," from the 1967 LP Magical Mystery Tour.

Mehldau's performance of the song is elaborative and relaxed, moving in and out of a stride-like cadence. He has a deep, intuitive understanding of the Victorian music hall sensibility that led McCartney to write the song.

"I was looking for a word to describe it, and the best I could come up with is 'frumpy,' maybe — in the best sense of the word," Mehldau says in the explanatory video, with a chuckle. Speaking of McCartney, he adds: "Somehow he found a way to bring in this other kind of big band-y English music and make it something completely unique and very much central to a lot of their music."

Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles was recorded live at Philharmonie de Paris in September of 2020 — five months after Mehldau's previous solo offering, the exquisitely intimate pandemic reflection Suite: April 2020.

The new album opens with "I Am the Walrus" and moves on to songs from across the Beatles timeline: "I Saw Her Standing There," "Here, There and Everywhere," "Maxwell’s Silver Hammer" and more. The encore is David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" — a song that, Mehldau suggests, flows out of what The Beatles made possible.

"Life on Mars?" was a memorable moment in the set I caught at the Vanguard in the fall. If that sounds tantalizing, take heed: Mehldau will return to the club for another run, Jan. 24 through 29. It's probably safe to assume he'll be playing some Beatles songs.

Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles will be released on Nonesuch on Feb. 10; preorder here.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.