Myra Melford's The Same River, Twice

Above Blue

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Melford, an original voice on piano if there ever was one, keeps on stretching. With her potent quintet the Same River, Twice, she is the fuse for explosions of deep group interaction, offering visceral harmonic statements while injecting her busy, dancing, at times pensive, and occasionally cluster-laden outspoken style to the forefront, its territory mapped by very few. Featuring the sonorific combination of trumpet-sax/clarinet-cello via Dave Douglas, Chris Speed, and Erik Friedlander, Melford molds her intricate modern music from highly concentrated elements, colored by an ingeniously rich palette. Melodies fly, splatter, and land with thuds and whistles. Douglas is especially responsive, Speed works out, and Friedlander fills in the cracks. Classical dynamics, jazz phrasing, sometimes swinging, themes occult and ethnic or funky and deep guide the participants through these eight pieces. Drummer Michael Sarin impresses not only for his ability to play tastefully, but in keeping the band glued solidly together. Titles are typically Melford, cut and pasted with lowercase i's: the lingering, doleful "Here Is Only Moment," the more moody "Still in After's Shadow," the popping, danceable "Yet Can Spring" (for Don Pullen), and a northerner's fave, the blast furnace hot "Be Melting Snow." The shimmering but urgent, Balkan-like title track, as compelling as new music can be, might be a personal best for this gifted lady. It's easy to find the joy and brilliance in the music of Melford, not to mention the clarity. As she further asserts her muse in a quest to continually be unique and different, everyone benefits, learning and growing as she does. This kind of music is indeed high art, rare, but unquestionably within reach.

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