Over the past two decades, Brad Mehldau has earned a spot in the jazz piano firmament next to Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Fred Hersch as a supremely expressive improviser who turns performances into emotionally wrought journeys. He’s an ambitious composer and adventurous song sleuth, as likely to interpret an atmospheric Bjork tune as a treasured Irving Berlin ballad, at times seamlessly blending the two. An artist whose wide-ranging vision is impossible to sum up in one sentence or performance, Mehldau settles into the SFJAZZ Center for a four-day residency, stretching out in a fascinating array of intimate settings.
In another and decidedly electrified duo encounter, Saturday sees Mehldau on electric piano and synthesizer, joining forces with the endlessly inventive drummer Mark Guiliana for the west coast debut of their electro-funk Mehliana project. Best known for his long association with bassist Avishai Cohen and his own Heernt and Beat Music projects, the world-funk infused Guiliana has also worked widely with saxophonist Donny McCaslin, vocalist Gretchen Parlato and guitarist Lionel Loueke.