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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