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Album Review

Myra Melford: For The Love Of Fire And Water

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Myra Melford: For The Love Of Fire And Water
Inspired by artist Cy Twombly, pianist Myra Melford has produced a superb album which combines notated signposts with unbridled exchanges. She's helped by an all star agglomeration comprising some of New York's most accoplished instrumentalists: guitarist Mary Halvorson, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Susie Ibarra. As might be expected of the city's brightest talents, their paths have crossed on multiple occasions, but never in this particular permutation until they appeared as part of a Melford residency at the Stone, in June 2019, to an uproarious reception. Some of the material played that night reappears within the 10-part suite that Melford presents under the title For The Love Of Fire And Water.

To be sure, it is the dazzling and distinctive improvising which elevates this set above the norm. Melford creates varied settings in which the crew can do their stuff, which range from thematically potent arrangements which act as a springboard for a soloist, juxtapositions of written and freeform elements by component parts of the quintet, and smaller spontaneous groupings, often trios or duets, sometimes structured by Melford and other times not. She does so with all the skill you would imagine of someone who studied composition with Henry Threadgill and has been on the scene since the early '90s, leading acclaimed outfits like Be Bread, Same River Twice and Snowy Egret.

It is her unaccompanied muscular piano which opens proceedings, launching the quintet on a narrative arc which displays a satisfying concern for shape and dynamics. The first part acts as an introduction to the band, presenting first Reid's singing arco cello in jabbing duet with the piano, joined by Ibarra whose offkilter accents color a wonky rhythm, then Laubrock's soprano squiggles and blurts and finally Halvorson's fidgety scrabble. At this point Melford introduces the intricate melody and counter, which resurfaces in "IX," but here serves to initiate a mercurial pas de deux between Halvorson and Laubrock. Between times come too many wonderful combinations to itemize, although even in this company the toggling between extreme and conventional registers by Melford and Laubrock on "V" stands out.

Melford reserves a haunting hymnal for the final part, to round things off in wonderful style. As ever with a combo of bandleaders, the question will be whether it can be sustained in the face of busy schedules, but whatever the answer, at least there is this.

Track Listing

I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X.

Personnel

Myra Melford: piano; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Ingrid Laubrock: saxophone; Tomeka Reid: cello; Susie Ibarra: percussion.

Additional Instrumentation

Myra Melford: melodica.

Album information

Title: For The Love Of Fire And Water | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Rogue Art

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