Saturday, April 10, 2010

Happy Whistlings, Indeed! In Fact!

Myra Melford's creativity rarely, if ever, sits still.  Over the course of 2+ decades, she has created music for small and large ensembles as well as played with many great musicians, from bassist Mark Dresser to reed master Joseph Jarman to violinist Leroy Jenkins to saxophonist Marty Ehrlich.

Since the first of this year, Melford has issued one of her finest CDs, "The Whole Tree Gone" (Firehouse 12 Records) and appeared on the impressive "Boom Tic Boom", drummer/composer Allison Miller's new CD on Fire Haven

On Friday April 9, she was in New Haven, CT, to record her newest project, "Happy Whistlings" in the lovely Firehouse 12 studios - she stayed that evening to play 2 sets in the recording studio's fine performance venue. The suite, influenced by "The Memory of Fire" trilogy of Uraguyan novelist Eduardo Galeano, featured the composer on piano, prepared piano and melodica along with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornets, vocal, whistling), Mark Halvorson (guitar, effects) and Stomu Takeishi (electric bass, electronics.)  The quartet played the piece twice, once each set.  The longer first set featured more noise, ranging from Takeishi using various objects to dampen his bass strings to the various mutes and devices of Bynum to Halvorson's Derek Bailey-influenced guitar shredding.  There were long patches of melodic beauty, hypnotic piano phrases colored by Bynum's quiet background riffs.  Other moments featured noisy give-and-takes, the cornet sputtering and buzzing while the guitarist scrabbled and scrambled sound, the bassist strummed furiously and the pianist scraped the strings on the inside of the piano.

The second set featured a condensed reading of the piece yet no less interesting.  One could hear the influence of the blues on the composer's writing, there was less noisy intensity and a bit more interaction.  The lovely melodic fragments stood out more, the quiet spoken word section clearer, and still the piece had great power. Perhaps, for those who had seen and heard the first set, the element of surprise had lessened but, to these ears, the overall shape of the piece seemed sharper.

It will be a while before the recording session sees the light of day but the memories of the live performance only serve to heighten the anticipation to hear this suite again and once more get lost in its intricate construction.  Myra Melford continues her personal journey and the curious listener is better for her travels.

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