Marty Ehrlich and Myra Melford: Spark!

Saxophonist Ehrlich and pianist Melford are two of the more refined musicians to have come out of the Downtown New York scene of the ’80s and ’90s. In contrast to many of their less-gifted cohorts of that era-for whom irony was a first language and porous chops were often a badge of honor-both made music notable for its intellectual rigor and unselfconscious beauty. Spark! evidences the duo’s further commitment to creating music that adheres to traditional structural and aesthetic concepts, while stretching them to fit their distinctive needs. Much of the music is consonant in a Jarrett-esque vein (Ehrlich’s “Hymn,” for instance), although they do go “out” on occasion (the improvised component of Robin Holcomb’s “Up Do”). The occasions when they touch on a blues sonority are less than convincing. As an improviser, Ehrlich is closer to Trumbauer than to, say, Turrentine. Melford is somewhat more comfortable in the blues realm, but it’s not really her bag, either. Better are their explorations of pastoral, folk-ish themes. Gritty? Not very. Beautiful? Yes, indeed.