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Myra Melford: Where the Two Worlds Touch

Myra Melford’s advanced pianism and the exquisitely deployed harmonies in her playing and arrangements are the main sources of fascination on Where the Two Worlds Touch. Inspired by works of the 13th-century Persian poet Jelaluddin Rumi, the music ranges from quiet contemplation to storms of free collective improvisation. Melford’s keyboard touch and her use of dynamics and closely bunched chords are replicated in the writing for her quintet, which she calls the Tent. Her voicings for piano, tenor saxophone or clarinet (Chris Speed) and trumpet (Cuong Vu) are enriched by the ensemble use of a bass guitar (Stomu Takeishi) in the range and with the fullness of a tuba or bass trombone.

Most of the tracks have a Middle Eastern mystical cast, but “No News at All” generates the swirling energy of southern Indian street music. “Everything Today” modulates through a boppish theme into something like a West Indian dance, shifts into a section of free playing, expands the modified cycle-of-fifths pattern with which it started and concludes abruptly on a note of exhilaration, all in two-and-a-half minutes. It is an impressive display of tightly controlled writing.

Melford’s soloing is replete with her customary energy, imagination and technique. It has remarkable tonal and emotional variety, particularly on “Where the Two Worlds Touch,” in which she and drummer Kenny Wollesen develop what amounts to a joint solo. Her use of the harmonium, with its hurdy-gurdy tonality, invests “Where the Ocean Misquotes the Sky” and “No News at All” with an exotic, old-fashioned character.

“Brainfire and Buglight” and “Where the Ocean Misquotes the Sky” feature the trumpet and the bass guitar making sounds like those of injured or outraged animals. It’s the sort of free playing that is more fun to do than to hear. Those sections are not as long as they seem.

Originally Published