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Brad Mehldau Reflects on the Darkness and Light Behind His Evocative 'Suite: April 2020'

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Courtesy of Van Lanschot Kempen

When Brad Mehldau first released Suite: April 2020, I found it too heartbreaking to absorb.

The album is an almost perfect musical snapshot of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, evoking many of the feelings we experienced during that time. Mehldau composed his suite as a collection of solo piano vignettes, giving them titles like “Keeping Distance,” “Remembering Before All This,” “Uncertainty,” “Waiting” and “Yearning.”

On this special episode of The Checkout, WBGOs’ Nate Chinen talks with Mehldau about those emotionally hard-hitting pieces. Hearing Suite: April 2020 now, in a healthier headspace, I can’t overstate the tremendous beauty and mastery glimmering here. In the pain, Mehldau finds resolution, and even the hint of some new beginnings. Chinen aptly describes this stir of emotions with the Brazilian term saudade, a kind of melancholy wrapped in comfort.

As you’ll hear later in the conversation, there are also jubilant moments in the suite. Pieces like “In The Kitchen” and “Family Harmony” capture the upside of hunkering down with loved ones for months on end. I’m sure that when we look back on this troubling year, Suite: April 2020 will be one of the recordings we reach for.

Mehldau recently performed portions of the suite in Amsterdam’s hallowed Concertgebouw. A video, beautifully filmed and edited in the hall with nary a soul in the audience, adds another poignant layer to this music. Watch it here:

Purchase or stream Suite: April 2020 on Nonesuch Records.

Subscribe to The Checkout on Spotify, Stitcher, and Apple Music.

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.