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Myra Melford & Ben Goldberg: Dialogue

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Ben Goldberg and Myra Melford have each served in supporting roles on one another’s ambitious projects. Melford’s piano appeared in Goldberg’s Orphic Machine last year, a nonet session that combined original music with the writer Allen Grossman’s poetic observations of the world. Goldberg’s clarinet played a key role in Melford’s Be Bread ensemble, on the 2010 album The Whole Tree Gone. Having developed a telepathic interplay, they exploit it on Dialogue, which is exactly what the title implies.

Conversational though they may be, Melford and Goldberg do not engage exclusively in spontaneous musical excursions on the album. The pianist composed eight of the tracks, with Goldberg taking credit for the remaining five.

For the most part, the written sections get greater emphasis, since the tracks (all between two and six minutes long) focus primarily on exposition, with only brief space left for blowing. But the dividing line between the page and the improvisation immediately becomes secondary.

What stands out is the way their instruments blend so easily on the out-of-tempo phrases of Goldberg’s “An Unexpected Visitor,” like the musicians are breathing together; later, in Melford’s “Be Melting Snow,” they take separate solos that are deftly bridged by an interlude flowing between their soliloquies. Moods vary between tracks, from ballads to plucky, staccato themes. Brief glimpses of blues and even pop undercurrents bob to the surface for extra engagement. As needed, Melford delivers tranquil, delicate chords or sprints across the keys like Cecil Taylor. Goldberg, too, varies from ghostly to bright and crisp. The impact of Dialogue greatly outweighs the size of the ensemble.

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Originally Published