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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Myra Melford's Be Bread - The Whole Tree Gone (Firehouse 12, 2010) ****½

Three years ago, when I started with this blog, Myra Melford's "Be Bread" band produced the wonderful "The Image Of Your Body", which brought a great mixtures of musical influences from around the world, not as veneer on top of her compositions, but really deeply entrenched in the compositions. With a slightly different band, she expands on the concept. Cuong Vu is still on trumpet, as is Brandon Ross on guitar, with Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar. Now we find Ben Goldberg on clarinet and Matt Wilson on drums. 

The band's approach has progressed, matured over the course of the years, become more coherent. Gone are the harmonium, gone are the electric guitar or the distorted trumpet sounds. It is all as acoustic as it gets. Gone too, are the explicit references to world music, although the music still has stylistic openness, yet moving more to jazz harmonies and rhythms, with also some deep blues. What also remains are the sensitivity, the compositional complexities, the lyricism and immediate accessibility, the wealth of ideas, the long unison lines. The arrangements vary between tight interplay and loose textures, with varying line-ups and no obligation for each musician to play on each track. Melford herself takes a more prominent role on the piano, and her playing is wonderful, as you can expect. The use of acoustic guitar and acoustic soprano guitar add some chamber music texture to the overall sound, although some of the pieces have an expansive urgency and percussive power that take it well beyond chamber music. It is also a delight to hear Cuong Vu's trumpet in an unadultered way: with a naked and clean sound. Maybe that characterizes the music best : it is of a vulnerable beauty and sensitivity, integrating styles and traditions, from blues over bop to avant-garde. Rich music!

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© stef


doca said...

that sure is a great album.
myra melford really improves from record to record.

just a note: i know this album was released by firehouse12, but i don't see many cryptogramophone albums (like "the image of your body") being reviewed here. i know this is a silly complain, but they do have good stuff over in the west coast.

Stef said...

Hi Doca,

I think I do - see Nels Cline, etc. It's just that they do not release many albums.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stef. ! am a great fan of your site. But please stick to FREE JAZZ. Myra is slowly but surely shifting towards mainstream and this album is proof of it. Wish she would have stayed with her trio of a couple of years ago...or any other similar project. I really DID NOT like this album. Too 'sweet' and predictable, and to my ears, terrible production values.