All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

3

Myra Melford's Language of Dreams at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Harry S. Pariser By

Sign in to view read count
Myra Melford's Snowy Egret
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
San Francisco, CA
November 8, 2013

Within the intimate confines of the YBCA Forum in the heart of San Francisco's museum district, a gray, out- of-focus video screened a country road. On one platform set directly under the screen, piano, drums, two chairs and two stools were set up in a row, awaiting the arrival of the musicians. A stage directly below held a large, semi-opaque plastic tarpaulin. The evening would unfold the premiere of pianist Myra Melford's fledgling multimedia effort, Language of Dreams . It also marked the premiere of JAZZ@YBCA, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' jazz series.

The members of Snowy Egret took the stage as avant-garde Japanese-immigrant dancer Oguri took the lower stage, ensconcing himself prone under the enormous, crumpled plastic sheet.

Myra Melford reached over on her piano to pluck strings as a fuzzy video played. Over on the right, narrator Sofie Rei began narrating from the first of a long series of excerpts from the poems of Eduardo Galleano, reciting them in English and then Spanish. Bassist Stomu Takeishi, known for his work with Henry Threadgill among others, plucked his guitar-shaped acoustic bass as guitarist Liberty Ellman spoke through his deftly fingered electric guitar. Ron Miles then fingered his cornet and punctuated the mix with the instrument's special sound. Drummer Jeff Davis laid down a steady, forthright beat. Oguri balled himself up and, eventually, after moving snail-like under the sheeting, emerged from his chrysalis, folded up his sheet and, taking it in hand, exited the stage only to re-enter and leave several times during the performance.

A fascination with Mexico's Huichol Indians, the poetry of Eduardo Galleano, the avant-garde compositions of mentors Henry Threadgill and Don Pullen, and other factors, encounters and influences melded together in this production, the first of its kind to be held in San Francisco. Melford first wrote the music, then, "in a mysterious way," combined hundreds of excerpts from Galleano's famous Memory of Fire trilogy "in an organic way" to form the work, which resembled the bard's prose-poems in that she combined 15 pieces, each of which ran between three to eight minutes.

The rest of the production proceeded in a similar fashion with video, musicians and dancers all intertwined in a deft interchange. Found and creative commons footage, hand selected and digitally processed by video artist and lighting designer David Szlasa accompanied the rest of the performers. Abstractly filmed footage of marauding cattle, snowy, lofty mountain peaks and other scenes, all digitally altered, filled the twin extra-wide screens.

From a creation myth ("The Promised Land") to the story about the Iriquois which followed, to street cries for watermelon, bread, coconut candies and tamales (expertly rendered by Ms. Rei), Galleano's poetic voice gave an added layer of resonance to the compositions. The avant-garde music (Takeshi even using a crumpled plastic cup as a slide) succeeded at meshing with the movements of Oguri and the dreamlike projected-video presentation to varying degrees. Myra also played samples and held forth on the melodica. It was quite an ambitious effort, and, as with all such multi- discipline productions exhibited both strengths and weaknesses at times, but the music stood on its own, as it doubtless will when the CD is recorded. The good news for those who could not attend is that a DVD is also planned and will be released at a future date.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
M Z M

M Z M

Infrequent Seams
2018

buy
Dialogue

Dialogue

Bag Production Records
2016

buy
Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Enja Records
2015

buy
Life Carries Me This Way

Life Carries Me This...

Firehouse 12 Records
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater Live Reviews
The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater
by Mackenzie Horne
Published: November 15, 2018
Read Enjoy Jazz 2018 Live Reviews
Enjoy Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Jazz for all Ages Live Reviews
Jazz for all Ages
by Martin McFie
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Baku Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Baku Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Moldejazz 2018 Live Reviews
Moldejazz 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: November 10, 2018
Read "North Sea Jazz 2018" Live Reviews North Sea Jazz 2018
by Phillip Woolever
Published: September 3, 2018
Read "Chicago Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Chicago Jazz Festival 2018
by Patrick Burnette
Published: September 12, 2018
Read "Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club" Live Reviews Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club
by Gareth Thomas
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Vijay Iyer at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Vijay Iyer at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 4, 2018