Jazz composer-pianist Brad Mehldau has been appointed to hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall for the 2010-2011 season; he is the first jazz composer to ever be named to this position. Originally a three-season position, the Debs Chair was restructured in 2007 as a single year appointment in order to focus on a greater variety of composers. Highlights of Meldau’s activities there during 2010-2011 will include a solo piano performance, a song recital featuring his music as well as a broad range of old and new repertoire by mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter accompanied by Mehdau, and the New York premiere of Highway Rider, his evening-length composition for jazz quintet and chamber orchestra featuring Mehldau and frequent collaborators saxophonist Josh Redman, bassist Larry Grenadier, and percussionists Jeff Ballard and Matt Chamberlain, with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Scott Yoo. (The same forces have recorded the work on a two CD set that will be issued in March 2010 by Nonesuch Records.) In addition, Carnegie will present two masterclasses on improvisation and collaboration for piano soloists and jazz trios by Mehldau at the popular downtown New York club Le Poisson Rouge.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1970, Mehldau spent most of his childhood in Connecticut. He already began garnering the attention of the music community as a sophomore in high school when he was awarded the Best All-Around Musician Award by the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1988, Mehldau moved to New York City to study jazz at The New School under the tutelage of Fred Hersch, among others. Over the past decade he has collabraoted with a broad range of musicians including Charlie Haden, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Charles Lloyd, and operatic soprano Renée Fleming, To date, Mehldau has appeared on over 40 recordings, more than a dozen of which under his leadership.
Mehldau will be the seventh composer to hold the Debs Chair since it was established in 1995. Previous appointees have been Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1995-1999), Pierre Boulez (1999-2003), John Adams (2003-2007), Thomas Adès (2007-2008), Elliott Carter (2008-2009), and Louis Andriessen (2009-2010). Mehldau’s appointment was announced earlier today at the 2010-2011 Carnegie Hall season press announcement. Other highlights of Carnegie’s 2010-2011 season include two “Perspectives” series curated by violinist Christain Tetzlaff and singer-songwriter James Taylor, a citywide JapanNYC Festival led by Seiji Ozawa, and a total of 33 premieres of new works, 11 of which are Carnegie Hall commissions.