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01/18/13

Myra Melford
Life Carries Me This Way
Firehouse 12 Records

Partaking in Life Carries Me This Way reinforces the meaning of the word “delightful.” For the first solo piano album of her career, Myra Melford interprets 11 paintings loaned to her by a late, dear friend, the artist Don Reich. Hearing the music while seeing photos of the paintings in the CD jacket, the responsive listener becomes part of his or her own intimate triangle by interpreting the interpretations. Delightful.

With or without that exercise, Melford’s music paints its own unpredictable impressions. An unconventional thinker but a celebrated one—she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award earlier this year—her compositions tend to be episodic, yet the shifts in mood, texture, harmony and rhythm vary in terms of their subtlety, and the depth of their coherence is unearthed through multiple listens. Pastel-shaded chamber passages can suddenly yield to intervallic prancing, vamps in counterpoint or the blues coming around the corner like the cavalry. Perhaps the best thing about hearing Melford solo is the attendant silence it allows her touch. She controls the shimmer in the sublime delicacy of “Japanese Music,” conveys the bleak sadness in “Moonless Night” with quiet dynamism, and lets the brittle, high-toned notes on the brief “Barcelona” come and go like a pelting sun shower.

In the liner notes, Charles Johnson describes Reich’s artistic career as “passing through many different ways of expressing a steady sensibility.” The same could be said for Myra Melford.

Originally published in December 2013
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