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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Myra Melford's Be Bread - The Image Of Your Body (Cryptogramophone, 2006) ****½

Myra Melford is a searching spirit. She has already tried many ways of expression, often very idiosyncratic, never chosing the easy road, without giving in to commercial expectations, yet always looking for new sounds, melodic and rhythmic innovation. This quest brought her to India for a year, where she learned to appreciate the harmonium, this quest brought her also to Arabic music and sufism. In her previous album "Where The Two Worlds Touch", these influences were already apparent, but in "The Image Of Your Body" she brings all this one step further. This is not world music, this is modern jazz that fully integrates the Indian and Arabic and rock music into her idiom, and make it quite essential, rather than using it to add some flavor, and what she brings to life a real thing of beauty. For this album she is accompanied by Cuong Vu on trumpet, Brandon Ross on electric guitar and banjo, Stomu Takeishi on bass guitar and Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums. Strangely enough, Vu and Ross never meet on this CD, yet their approach is highly similar. Vu is a master of the electronic distortion of his trumpet, as we know from his own albums, and Ross is a master in the same area, on the long piece "To The Roof" even sounding like Terje Rypdal. The title songs "The Image Of Your Body" and "Be Bread" have the most outspoken Arabic influence, with long unisono melodies of harmonium and banjo (replacing the Arabic oud for the occasion). Melford's presence is despite her technical skills very economical on this album, laying the harmonic foundations and adding accents for emphasis. She explains in her press kit : "I first played this music on the melodica and as a result, much of it is based on melody. It’s conceived as quartet music, but what’s important here is not the instrumentation but rather individual musical personality". But this shouldn't create the wrong expectations, this music is full of emotional power, full of suspense, menace, dispair, jubilation and chaos at moments, sentiments that are difficult to squeeze out of a melodica. This is tightly arranged, refreshing music with depth and variation. The music belongs to the same category of the album by Louis Sclavis that I reviewed yesterday. Both artists search for new forms of expressions, using influences from outside jazz and their end result is remarkably close.

Listen to some samples