May 22, 2024

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CD review: Brad Mehldau – Suite: April 2020: Video, CD cover

While sheltering at home with his family in the Netherlands during the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, pianist and composer Brad Mehldau wrote twelve new songs about what he was experiencing; he was able to record them safely in an Amsterdam studio, together with interpretations of three tunes that mean a great deal to him personally.

The resulting solo album, Suite: April 2020, is available today, June 12, 2020 at 10am ET as a limited-edition deluxe 180-gram vinyl LP. One thousand numbered and signed copies are available for $100 exclusively from the Nonesuch Store, Bandcamp, and Discogs; a minimum of $90 from each sale will be donated to the Jazz Foundation of America’s COVID-19 Musician’s Emergency Fund (after distribution fees). Suite: April 2020 is also available digitally today; CD and standard vinyl editions will be available September 18, and a portion of their sales also will benefit JFA’s Fund. A video for the album track “remembering before all this,” with an introduction by Mehldau, is available below; sheet music for the song is included with Nonesuch Store orders.

As Mehldau says, “Suite: April 2020 is a musical snapshot of life the last month in the world in which we’ve all found ourselves. I’ve tried to portray on the piano some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us. In ‘keeping distance,’ for example, I traced the experience of two people social distancing, represented by the left and right hand—how they are unnaturally drawn apart, yet remain linked in some unexplainable, and perhaps illuminating way. As difficult as COVID-19 has been for many of us, there have been moments of revelation along the way. ‘stopping, listening: hearing’ highlights that moment as well.

“I’ve pointed to some of the strong feelings that have arisen the past month or more: ‘remembering before all this’ expresses a bittersweet gut-pain that has hit me several times out of the blue, when I think back on how things were even just a few months ago, and how long ago and far away that seems now; ‘uncertainty’ hits on the feeling that can follow right after that—a hollow fear of an unknown future,” he continues.

“There’s also been a welcome opportunity to connect more deeply with my family than we ever have, because of the abundant time and close proximity. The last three pieces hit on that connection—the harmony we find with each other, making meals together or just horsing around. ‘Lullaby’ is for everyone who might find it hard to sleep now.”

“Neil Young’s words in ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ have always been counsel for me, now more than ever, when he instructs: ‘Don’t let it bring you down/It’s only castles burning / Find someone who’s turning / And you will come around.’ Billy Joel’s ‘New York State of Mind,’ a song I’ve loved since I was nine years old, is a love letter to a city that I’ve called my home for years, and that I’m far away from now. I know lots of people there and miss them terribly, and I know how much that great city hurts right now. I also know that it too will come around.”

The generosity of many involved in this record has allowed all of the proceeds from the deluxe vinyl to be donated to JFA: With the support from direct-to-disc label Night Dreamer, Holland’s Record Industry pressed the vinyl quickly at no cost and Copenhagen Vinyl will waive handling fees for order fulfillment. Package designer Barbara deWilde also donated her services.


1. I. waking up
2. II. stepping outside
3. III. keeping distance
4. IV. stopping, listening: hearing
5. V. remembering before all this
6. VI. uncertainty
7. VII. – the day moves by –
8. VIII. yearning
9. IX. waiting
10. X. in the kitchen
11. XI. family harmony
12. XII. lullaby
13. Don’t Let It Bring You Down *
14. New York State of Mind **
15. Look for the Silver Lining ***

All songs written and performed by Brad Mehldau except where noted.
*written by Neil Young
**written by Billy Joel
***written by B.G. DeSylva / Jerome Kern

Brad Mehldau's "Suite: April 2020" Out Now; Proceeds from 1,000 Numbered, Signed Deluxe Vinyl Go to Jazz Foundation of America's COVID-19 Musicians' Emergency Fund | Nonesuch Records

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