Myra Melford, Zeena Parkins and Miya Masaoka: MZM

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
Myra Melford, Zeena Parkins and Miya Masaoka: MZM
Three world-class musicians whose long paths had yet to intersect, pianist Myra Melford, electronics wizard Zeena Parkins and kotoist Miya Masaoka finally team up for MZM. It's a potent, concentrated set of fully-improvised pieces that highlight the trio's ability to craft something wholly new while retaining each of their unique musical personalities.

The album was first released by Infrequent Seams in 2017, but it's getting a reboot here. Most of the ten tracks range from three to six minutes in length, allowing for a purposeful dialogue to emerge, develop and conclude without drifting into meandering digressions. And each has a distinctive character. "Red Spider" starts the album with all three players skittering about, pursuing independent strains that somehow take shape collectively. "Southern Owl" is more manic, with an energy sparked by Parkins's punchiest interjections, seeming to drive Melford and Masaoka into a much more percussive, rhythmic frenzy. But softer registers can also be found, from the ruminative "Spiral," led by Masaoka's spare restraint, to "Rosette," the album's closer, initiated by Melford's patient musings.

Part of what makes the improvisations so successful is their ability to merge the musicians' distinctive voices, while allowing their different aspects to emerge within the confines of each piece. Masaoka has a compelling introspective quality, especially present on a piece like "Spiral," which exemplifies her most idiomatic koto playing on the record; but she's equally riveting on "Taurus," where she eschews plucking in favor of sweeping swaths of sound that blend perfectly with Melford's prepared piano and Parkins's moody atmospheres. Melford's jaunty side can be found on "Eight-burst," with plenty of rhythmic figures bouncing here and there. But her contemplative voice is a steadying presence as well, particularly on "Rosette." And Parkins is consistently the wildcard, equally capable of jarring eruptions ("Ant"), carefully generated soundscapes ("Taurus"), and frenetic shards of guitar-like noise ("Eight-burst").

These three will undoubtedly carry on their numerous projects in myriad other contexts. But we can be grateful that they had the opportunity to come together for this particular encounter—one so sympathetic and creative.

Track Listing

Red Spider; Bug; Saturn; Eight-burst; Retina; Taurus; Southern Owl; Spiral; Ant; Rosette.


Myra Melford: piano; Zeena Parkins: harp; Miya Masaoka: koto.

Album information

Title: MZM | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Infrequent Seams

Post a comment about this album


Shop Amazon


Read Cranbrook Christmas Jazz
Cranbrook Christmas Jazz
Rodney Whitaker with the Christ Church Cranbrook Choir
Read The New Orleans Collection: For All We Know
The New Orleans Collection: For All We Know
Ellis Marsalis with Jason Marsalis
Read Echoes Of Africa
Echoes Of Africa
The Invisible Session

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.