Jazz musicians covering pop songs can feel, in the wrong hands, like a gimmicky attempt at staying relevant. That's never a problem for pianist Brad Mehldau, who's adept at casting songs like Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" or Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" in a new light (it’s worth tracking down any of the multitude of Mehldau’s covers on Spotify or YouTube).
Most of that success is due to Mehldau’s arrangements, but I’d also cite his ability to play separate melodies and rhythms with each hand, which leads to richly layered textures that make the songs nearly unrecognizable.
It also provides an accessible entry point to jazz neophytes looking to better understand the genre by highlighting how the form plays with melody and song structure.
The best selling point for jazz, though, is always the live show, and Wednesday’s concert with drummer Mark Guiliana should provide a dynamic and fun showcase.