The Same River, Twice

COMPOSERS: Myra Melford
LABELS: Gramavision
ALBUM TITLE: Myra Melford
PERFORMER: Myra Melford (p); Dave Douglas (t); Chris Speed (ts, clt); Erik Friedlander (cello); Michael Sarin (d)
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 79513 (distr. Vital)

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Tutored in her Chicago-based youth in both the European classics and blues/ boogie-woogie, Myra Melford is swiftly establishing herself on the highly competitive New York scene with music that, while clearly indebted to both traditions, is none the less original and distinctive.

In its unaffected, entirely natural-sounding incorporation of considerable freedom within a relatively rigid structure, Melford’s band frequently sounds more European than American, resembling in particular one of the UK’s most exhilarating live jazz acts, Dreamtime. But the music’s great strength, its hospitality to individual expression aside, lies in its extraordinary textural variety.

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The introduction to the album’s longest piece, ‘The Large Ends the Way’, for instance, features interwoven cello, clarinet and muted trumpet, but then gives way to an attractively airy – almost catchy – theme that in turn ushers in a series of intense duets and collective improvisation of the highest order. Those wary of freely improvised jazz could do a lot worse than test the water with this rich and absorbing album. CP