She switched from her environmental studies major to focusing on jazz piano and, in 1990, released her first record as a leader. Jump featured a trio with Lindsay Horner and Reggie Nicholson and included an homage to Illinois architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The trio released two more records (1991's Now & Now and 1993's Alive in the House of Saints ) before Melford added horn players Dave Douglas and Marty Ehlrich for Even the Sounds Shine , the record where she really found her compositional voice (and which included another dedication to Wright). During that time, she also played on sessions led by Jarman, Jenkins and Threadgill ( Song Out of My Trees and Makin' a Move , the latter including the remarkable piece "Noisy Flowers", played by Melford and a guitar quartet), as well as being a part of Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris' conductions.
While working the other angles, Melford is continuing to compose for her most recent ensemble, The Tent (with Takeishi, Vu, Chris Speed and Kenny Wollesen), featuring music based on the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi. An octet of pieces were released this year on the Arabesque disc where the two worlds touch, and a new set of pieces (with drummer Kavee replacing Wollesen) was commissioned by Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Foundation to be presented at Jazz Standard this month.
Melford's interest in Islamic and Sufi writers comes from an effort "to have some better understanding of what's going on in the world today," she said. "I certainly have my own political bias, but I'm really interested in the larger picture of who these people are rather than the polemic that's been set up."
Turning Sufi writings into musical composition is not a "rational or linear process," she said. "To the extent that any of my music is influenced by poetry or painting or architecture, it's how I'm influenced by my exposure to it. I don't think there's anything literal about it. What I'm interested in is music as a force for healing and uplifting."
Visit Myra Melford on the web at www.myramelford.com .
Myra Melford: Mystic Manifestations
– Myra Melford - Now & Now (Enemy, 1991)
– Myra Melford - Alive in the House of Saints (hatHUT, 1993)
– Myra Melford Extended Ensemble - Even The Sounds Shine (hatOLOGY, 1994)
– Myra Melford/Han Bennink - Eleven Ghosts (hatOLOGY, 1994)
– Myra Melford/The Same River Twice - The Same River Twice (Gramavision, 1996)
– Joseph Jarman/Leroy Jenkins/Myra Melford - Equal Interest (OmniTone, 2000)