Recently Brad Mehldau released an album he composed in the early weeks of the pandemic, when the majority of the world was heavily quarantined and New York, in particular, was nearing its apex of fatalities and despair. Suite: April 2020 evokes a sort of pleasantly postmodern, gently atonal nostalgia for an America of twenty years ago when a catastrophic loss of life was enough to unify us as one nation.
On repeat listenings, a practiced musician will hear familiar phrases gently pulled from our national songbook: from Miles Davis, from hymnals, from films. The suite moves through a typical day during the pandemic, which feels as true now as it did in April, beginning with the feeling of awakening into a reality you’d hoped would disappear when you went to sleep the night before, and coursing its way through the tediums and melancholies of the day, culminating in a wistful lullaby that dares to believe a new morning will bring new hope.
I’ve found the record immensely comforting to listen to; it’s beautifully sincere but artfully avoids sentimentality (less one dreamy bonus cover of “New York State of Mind”). It’s a teardrop distillation of the vast ocean of emotion in which all of us find ourselves swimming.