Above Blue

COMPOSERS: Myra Melford
LABELS: Arabesque Jazz
PERFORMER: Myra Melford (p), Dave Douglas (t), Chris Speed (ts, cl), Erik Friedlander (vc), Michael Sarin (d)
CATALOGUE NO: AJ 0142 (distr. Complete)

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Beyond the tepid mainstream of mediocrity, where jazz styles of 40 years and more pass as ‘modern’, lies the avant-garde. During the last decade it has been all but overwhelmed by the vast number of young musicians clamoring for attention yet doing nothing more than playing in the adopted styles of jazz’s posthumous heroes.

Jazz is supposed to be many things but it not supposed to be boring, yet a vast sea of recordings made during the last 15 years argues to the contrary. In contrast, pianist Myra Melford has consistently impressed with a series of high quality albums featuring her own compositions.

A graduate of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington she completed her studies under Henry Threadgill and the late Don Pullen. Making her recording debut as a leader in 1991 with Jump (Enemy), she recorded two further trio albums, while her last two albums under her own name have been with her quintet: Even the Sounds Shine (hat Art) from 1995 and The Same River Twice (Gramavision) from 1996.

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Weaving melody in and out of dissonance, Melford’s compositions explore many moods with shifting ensemble densities and sometimes intricate part writing. Yet despite two distinguished Downtown musicians in Douglas and Speed, it is Melford’s own playing, crisp, energetic and cliché free, that gives this group character. She dares to voyage to the edge yet can be romantic, stoic, wry and lusty but most of all daring, all in one tune. Stuart Nicholson