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Myra Melford: Hearing the River

Myra Melford

The great small groups in jazz history share two criteria: one is that their line-ups include not just distinctive leaders-in-their-own-rights soloists, but complementary stylists who, in the aggregate, represent a sizable swath of the contemporary jazz spectrum; and they include at least one composer who, while writing from a well-articulated personal aesthetic, taps the respective strengths of his/her cohorts, and clarifies the relationship between the various musics that give their rapidly changing times an unique vitality.

Art Blakey’s 1960 edition of the Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Timmons exemplifies how an ensemble of well-matched soloists performing an original repertoire encapsulating earthy folk materials, well-designed modernist compositions, and a knowing glance to the future, reaches such rare heights. The ’90s have spawned precious few ensembles that even approach such rigorous standards. Yet, with only its second recording just hitting the streets, pianist Myra Melford’s The Same River, Twice is already in the ballpark.

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