Myra Melford returns, this time on Arabesque Records featuring her long time associates who are among the creme-de-la-creme of modern jazz. On Above Blue, Ms. Melford’s impressive track record of performing with top-notch musicians and churning out enticingly complex compositions remain intact.
Myra Melford’s brand of modern jazz is unique mainly due to her approach through composition, technical gifts and stunning arrangements. These traits are quite evident on the opener, “Two But Live”. Here, Melford’s piano performance stirs the pot with blazing crescendos, rapidly executed motifs and scattered free-jazz improvisations. Melford also dictates the tempo along with Chris Speed’s commanding tenor sax work. The rhythm section of Mike Sarin (drums) and Erik Friedlander (cello) are perfect within Melford’s often difficult to perform rhythmic structures. Melford’s compositions are frequently linear in style with weaving and flowing arrangements that are seamless and at times suggest circular movement.
On “A White Flower Grows In The Quietness”, Chris Speed’s fluid and brisk clarinet choruses emphasize the melody as the brilliant Dave Douglas displays bravado with supremely majestic trumpet phrasing. As with most Melford compositions and arrangements this piece changes gears yet the flow is rarely if ever, sacrificed. “Above Blue” is linear in scope, as the ensemble work is flawless. On this piece, Melford’s somewhat “regal” and at times somber piano solo is excitingly climactic as Speed and Douglas provide appropriate low key choruses in the background. Here, the forward movement eventually picks up steam, as the themes are restated and wondrously executed. Erik Friedlander’s vitality and importance is prominently displayed here and throughout this recording. Friedlander is among the top cellists in modern jazz and provides gobs of tonal color, strong rhythmic development and verve. “Through Storms Embrace” commences in a free-jazz vein as Melford drills through ! various themes in stunning fashion with gargantuan block chords and fleet-fingered single note runs. This composition unfolds as Michael Sarin takes a highly charged drum solo while Friedlander calms the waters via pensive, eloquent yet enchantingly idiomatic cello work.
Above Blue may in fact be Melford’s finest outing to date. The brilliant ensemble work coupled with Melford’s multifaceted upfront compositional style makes for compelling listening. Myra Melford is one of jazz’ treasures and has accomplished quite a bit during her 10 year tenure within the modern jazz scene. Above Blue along with Ms. Melford’s “Same River Twice” band is a bold yet deeply personalized statement from this brilliant pianist-composer. * * * * *
Myra Melford; Piano: Dave Douglas; Trumpet: Chris Speed; Tenor Sax & Clarinet: Erik Friedlander; Cello: Michael Sarin; Drums.