Myra Melford / Han Bennink

Eleven Ghosts

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Supreme musicians Myra Melford and Han Bennink join together for a duo recording as blues progressions, boogie-woogie, and Harlem stride become the trampoline from which they jump. It's free, free, but far less cryptic -- and more accessible -- than one might expect. Melford is a very accomplished pianist: straight and outside, serious and silly -- she's done it, and done it well. Bennink has a wide repertoire of percussive creativity. He's a light-hearted master who can re-create the sounds of a kitchen's ride through an earthquake. Rising uniquely to any level of playing -- abstract, straight, or wack -- he can play like three drummers at once. These two musicians play musical strands that run parallel, complementing each other nicely. The piano softly twinkles up and down the scales; gossamer strings connect Melford's hands to old barrelhouse tunes. Meanwhile, the drums unravel any hope of 4/4 time and get happily tangled up in the string. Melford bangs cluster punches while Bennink scrambles up one side of a song, only to roll down the other side, arms flapping. Playful, they twirl around each other. Masterful, they create an off-the-wall pair who surprise and delight. The longest piece, "Which Way Is That?," twists its own focus lens, alternately smearing the tune's structure until it's all blurred together and putting it back into focus until it's explicitly restated. "Some Relief" is a brief intermission, a straight little ditty as respite. "And Now Some Blues" sometimes allows the piano blues to roll, but often deconstructs it, and their take on "The Maple Leaf Rag" is quite excellent and an appropriate closer for this album. Although grouped in the more avant-garde end of jazz, Eleven Ghosts won't scare the audience off. Even people who stiffen at the words "outside jazz" will relax their shoulders while listening to this album.

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