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Myra Melford's Fire And Water Quintet: Hear The Light Singing

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Myra Melford's Fire And Water Quintet: Hear The Light Singing
Pianist Myra Melford's blue chip Fire And Water quintet assuredly sidesteps second album syndrome. Hear The Light Singing stands very much the equal of the band's superlative eponymous debut. The only change is that Lesley Mok takes Susie Ibarra's place behind the trapset, otherwise the triumvirate completing the starry squad remains Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones, Tomeka Reid on cello and Mary Halvorson on guitar.

In the liners Melford explains that the five pieces titled "Insertions" here were designed to expand on, and in some cases replace, parts of the original "Fire And Water" suite. But regardless they constitute a tremendous record in their own right. Once again Melford hits the sweet spot as she plays up to the considerable talents of her crew. With her written material she manages the trick of allowing each individual full exposure and agency yet sets that within distinctive frames, all underpinned by exquisite ensemble interplay.

Each piece begins with an unaccompanied outing from one of the outfit. Appropriately Melford herself opens proceedings, demonstrating once again why she has such an elevated position in the post-Cecil Taylor pantheon, taking elements of his language and making it her own. After those introductory statements we dive into a series of multi-segmented works in which Melford explores all manner of strategies. A favorite is to position a solo against a countermelody, as she does later on "Insertion One" when Laubrock's plaintive soprano leads into an anthemic swell behind Halvorson's cascading guitar shimmer.

Another option pitches one part of the group against another, notably on the first part of "Insertion Three A+B." Scratchy improv from Mok's rattley percussion, Halvorson's bent twangs and Reid's careening cello alternates with the leader's keys and Laubrock's tenor saxophone, who initially offer unisons, variously stealthy and foreboding, but then blossom into a mercurial duet which is one of the set's many highlights. Another arrives with Mok's feature later in the same cut. Like her predecessor she convinces as an accomplished colorist, evidenced here by the measured way in which she manipulates timbre and tone.

Every track would bear similar analysis. Each comes artfully constructed, full of intrigue and emotional heft, emblazoned with standout playing. What more could one ask for?

Track Listing

Insertion One; Insertion Two; Insertion Three A+B; Insertion Four; Insertion Five.

Personnel

Album information

Title: Hear The Light Singing | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Rogue Art


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