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Friday, March 8, 2024

Three for International Women's Day

Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet - Hear the Light Singing (Rogue Art, 2023)

The easiest thing to say about Myra Melford's second recording with the Fire and Water Quintet is that new details come through on every listen. A chord change or timbral color that eluded the first ten listens, a shimmery passage from guitarist Mary Halvorson, a particularly exuberant melody from Melford's piano, smeary tones from Ingrid Laubrock's saxophone, a delicate melody perched somewhere between a melody and a bassline from cellist Tomeka Reid or an expertly placed syncopation from drummer Leslie Mok, each musician offers moments of individual surprise and delight. Together, they help Melford's musical ideas find the magical balance between free improvisation, compositional details and vigorous groove.

Hear the Light Singing the second recording from this group, the first being the album entitled For the Love of Fire and Water from 2021, with the drumming of Susie Ibarra. That album was pretty good sample of perfection - compositionally strong without being bound to a specific sound or style and impeccably performed. Live, it was obvious that the recording was just a starting place, as the quintet expanded on the compositions, turning the stage into a musical laboratory. It seems like this was also the genesis of this particular recording, as new musical passages that Melford composed to improve upon the music for live performance have now grown into their own complete songs. Additionally, as Melford is quoted in the liner notes, the music was also composed for the players, as she learned about each musician, she composed for them individually.

This certainly come through in the recording. On one hand, there is not really a strong hook or main theme as there are many passages that segue into each other, each time with perfectly complimenting harmonies and intertwining voices. 'Insertion Four,' which appears on the second half of the recording, captures this perfectly, the slowly unfolding piece features delicate lines from all the players, it feels light but certainly not light-weight, from the opening moments of Halvorson's looped burst of tones and Melford's minimal arpeggios, to the undercut of Mok's drums, an delicate atmosphere, laced with sharp tonal shards, eventually channels - almost imperceptibly - into a undulating melody from Laubrock and Halvorson in tandem. Then Reid's counter melody rises up, and a mesmerizing exchange ensues.

From the opening passage on 'Insertion One' in which Melford plays an expressive, syncopated introduction before joined by the group, shadowing and punctuating the formative melodic lines to the intensity of 'Insertion Five,' which closes the album with a powerful collective and simply infectious energy, Hear the Light Singing is an impressive follow up album to the equally as outstanding debut.

Dead Leaf Butterfly - ontmoeting (Jazzwerkstatt, 2023)

The group's name seemingly refers to a type of butterfly that lives in south east Asia. It, as implied, looks like a dead leaf when they close their wings, but when open, can be quite a colorful display. It would be safe to say that this is just a name, as the music from this multi-national quartet is rather dazzling from all points of view.

If anything, their debut album title ontmoeting is more descriptive. It is a word in Dutch that means, simply, "meeting." All four musicians either call, or have called, Berlin home, or at least one of their homes. Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano, German bassist Maike Hilbig, Spanish percussionist Lucia Martinez, and Belgian vibraphonist Els Vanderweyer, met in Berlin and found playing together to work out quite nicely. To the recording, they brought some pieces that they had composed individually, as well invented some new ones together, all achieving a richly varied but musically cohesive outcome.

The album begins with "Beans," a jumpy number that starts off with Allemano's focused trumpet spitting out short phrases, shadowed by Vanderweyer's muted vibraphone, Hilbig's shortened phrases, and Martinez's stuttering percussion. The kinks straighten out about half-way through the tune as spirited playing takes over. The following track, 'Cremant,' following a short legato intro, unfolds into a slinking groove. The mutes are gone from Vanderweyer's vibraphone and the sound is full and the mood quite 'cool.' Martinez adds some low in the mix but high in the atmosphere electronics - which eventually get caught up in a duet with Allemano. The electronics continue in the epic cinematic bull-fight of 'Bolboreta.'

The 13 tracks of the album give the group a chance to really show off what they can do, from the more structured songs at the start of the album to 'Finally Free' a track in the middle that is, as advertised, seemingly a freely swirling mix of musical - and extra-musical - ideas. Later, 'A Gogo of All Dancing Trouble' begins with a tenuous drone, and slowly evolves as a delicate dance of abstract melody and tonal exploration, and the closer 'Abstract You' ably synthesizes the various approaches into a halituous sting.

So, let it be stated in the minutes, the ontmoeting was a highly successful.

More info here.

Maria Dybbroe - MEUF vol 2 (Barefoot Records, 2024)

The Danish saxophonist and composer Maria Dybbroe adds curator to her many titles for this compilation of music from 19 woman musicians. It is the second volume of the initiative, expanding on the diverse offering of the first volume that was released on International Women's Day 2023.

The sounds found across the ten tracks range from folkloric to bracingly experimental. 'Skreii' by Guro Kvifte Nesheim and Camilla Hole is at turns melancholic and serene, while 'Siren,' composed by Kirstine Lindemann and voiced by Ly Tran is pretty haunting. Dybbroe's composition for two strings, 'Vi ser havet i det fjerne - part I' and played by violaist Lisa Marie Vogel and violinist Bettina Ezaki, is austere and moving, capturing the sweeping Nordic vistas in a short time span.

You'll have to just listen for yourself as this is just a short description of the first few tracks, a teaser for a compilation that opens a door to a world of creative music from artists who cover the spectrum from folk to classical to electronic ('Encircle' by Sofie Norling and Michala Østergaard) to noisy soundscapes (Sarah Buchner and Andrea S. Giordano's 'Sweetner') to unbounded free jazz ('Brussel's Antimatter' from Amalie Dahl and Ornella Noulet) and more.

Here is the full listing of musicians on the recording:
  • Camilla Hole (Soprano saxophone)
  • Maria Dybbroe (composer)
  • Ly Tran (Voice)
  • Guro Kvifte Nesheim (Hardanger d'amore)
  • Kirstine Lindemann (composition)
  • Lisa Marie Vogel (Viola)
  • Bettina Ezaki (Violin)
  • Astrid Garmo (hardingfele, tramping)
  • Michaela Antalová (Drums)
  • Sarah Buchner (Voice, flute and electronics)
  • Andrea S. Giordano (Voice, flute and electronics)
  • Amalie Dahl (alto saxophone)
  • Ornella Noulet (alto saxophone)
  • Sofie Norling (Vocals and electronics)
  • Michala Østergaard-Nielsen (Percussion and bow)
  • Michala Turcerová (Field recordings)
  • Lone Aagot Meinich (Field recordings)
  • Lil Lacy (Cello, voice & electronics)
  • Jenny Berger Myhre (Piano, electronics and field recordings) 


Anonymous said...

International :-)

Paul said...

Of course! Thanks.