Myra Melford's The Same River, Twice

The Same River, Twice

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Myra Melford's studies with avant-bop pianist Don Pullen and idiosyncratic jazz composer Henry Threadgill are reflected in the seamless combination of structure and free improvisation in both her writing and piano playing. Her only release on the Gramavision label, The Same River, Twice nicely exemplifies the mix with a selection of sprawling, exploratory numbers and shorter, more straightforward pieces. On relatively accessible cuts like "Bound Unbound" and "Changes I & II," Melford incorporates hints of boogie-woogie and soul into dense hard bop heads, providing plenty of room for a series of clever solo statements and boisterous unison stretches by members of her ensemble. Longer pieces like "Crush" and "The Large Ends the Way" are harder to penetrate, but repeated exposure reveals an ingenuous blend of frenetic, open-ended sections and slower, ethereal passages. The stellar backing is provided by trumpeter Dave Douglas, cellist Erik Friedlander, drummer Michael Sarin, and reed player Chris Speed. Melford's own impressive work at the piano finds her spanning the tumultuously free playing of Cecil Taylor and more blues-tinged, hard-bop keyboard terrain. A fine release by one of the brightest composers and players to appear on the jazz scene in the '90s.

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