Free Transcription of Brad Mehldau’s Solo on C.T.A.

Here are the first three choruses of Brad Mehldau’s solo from his most recent album recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City, Brad Mehldau Trio (Live).  I always loved this solo. When I first heard it, I was somewhat floored. Brad’s seemingly dissonant yet wonderfully melodic lines had developed to an entirely new level. As usual, the solo itself also developed and unfolded flawlessly. Although I only got around to transcribing the first three choruses, I feel that there is a wealth of information that one can learn from these three alone.

Brad Mehldau’s Solo on C.T.A.

To sum up how I interpret what Brad is doing, I believe he is essentially taking the elements that make up the average melodic bebop line and applying them through different cycles, as well as simply interpolating different keys over the harmony of C.T.A. The tune, C.T.A., is very similar to a rhythm changes tune, however, the A section is slightly different at the beginning. (Let me add that I also think he simply hears this way at this point after a great deal of practicing).

First of all, what makes a good bebop line? As my former teacher Hal Galper coined the term, “Forward Motion.” Basically, the idea that every line is leading to a strong melodic tone (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) that falls on beat 1 or 3. (I highly suggest that you go to halgalper.com and learn more about Forward Motion.) If you listen carefully, you can hear that Brad’s dissonant sounding lines often use forward motion, but sometimes the “melodic” tones are actually led to in a different key than the original key of the tune.

That’s my theory. Hope it helps. Enjoy the transcription, and please feel free to contact me with any questions you have.

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About Noah Kellman

I am a hard-working and devoted pianist, composer, songwriter, blogger, arts management student, self-marketer, and entrepreneur who happens to also be obsessed with creating art, connecting with people, watching Tim Burton movies, and many other things. I started playing piano around the age of three when my dad started teaching me to play some of the simpler Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart pieces for piano. I think the first song I ever learned was Für Elise. My ear ended up being far better than my reading skill (an unfortunate circumstance that continues today), and the many teachers I studied with in my youth allowed me to play only music that I could read. I ended up truly disliking most of these simple tunes in lesson books, and finally quit the piano until I discovered jazz in 5th grade when I heard the 315 All Stars, an incredible Syracuse, NY high school jazz ensemble that existed back in the day. From there on out, it’s all a blur. I studied with Rick Montalbano for the next 8 years, all the while meeting hundreds of incredible musicians and friends who I still love today. My freshman year of college, I attended The Brubeck Institute in Stockton, California. It proved to be an incredible year and really helped me develop as an artist. I am now a senior Arts Management major at SUNY Purchase College, in Purchase, NY.

2 thoughts on “Free Transcription of Brad Mehldau’s Solo on C.T.A.

  1. Hey Noah, thanks for making this stuff available. Its always nice to have some transcriptions to check out. In analyzing, I always find it nice to have the changes on the transcription in order to see how the notes relate to the chords. Do you, by chance, have a copy of the changes, too?

    • Hi there,
      I don’t actually have the chords written out anywhere, but I can tell you that they are very similar to a rhythm changes tune. I believe the main difference is that the first four chords descend in whole steps, Bb7, Ab7, Gb7, F7, 2 beats per chord. This happens twice in a row.

      Here’s a link to a quicktime file that outlines the chords: http://www.songtrellis.com/sounds/viewer$3536

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