Poetry has its own essence. Myra Melford was inspired by the words of Jelaluddin Rumi, the founder of the Mevlevi order of dervishes who are, perhaps, more recognisable as the Whirling Dervishes. Rumi’s words have undoubtedly cast a spell, but the music here goes well beyond that. Melford has a clasp on Hindustani music that she uses to add a captivating dimension. The band Melford has fashioned, from the musicians she has worked with, understand what she wants to say and, in doing so, extends the depth of her compositions into illuminating works.
Melford tantalizes with her exploration of form and sound. A song can harbour shade and beam, deliberation and freedom, combining diverse facets for a fascinating whole. Her tip of the soul to Andrew Hill begins with an engaging, elaborate ensemble with Chris Speed opening up on the tenor saxophone and Cuong Vu adding blistering fragments on the trumpet, the whole soon a swirling mass. The heady ambit dips into the calm of Melford’s harmonic vent on the piano, her notes dancing, flexing, pliant and thoughtful, before she stretches the frame with a welter of notes that strike resplendently.
The cacophony that is Calcutta, busy and bustling with the largest population of any city in India, opens “No News at All.” Melford captures the tumult in the energetic permutations but what makes this one stand out is her playing on the harmonium as she filters the richness of the instrument. Making it all the more vital is her use of structured Hindustani music in a seamless coalescence with free improvisation. Clocking in just short of twelve minutes, “Where the Ocean Misquotes the Sky” is gorgeous. The muse is Indian, funk, straight ahead and free movement, with the intertwining of Melford’s harmonium and Speed’s clarinet a conversation that speaks directly to the heart.