Myra Melford’s Be Bread | The Whole Tree Gone

Firehouse 12 (2010)
By JON GARELICK  |  February 2, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars

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Few jazz players and composers can bring as broad a vocabulary to a single piece as pianist Myra Melford — bebop, blues, Latin, European classical modernism, Cecil Taylor free keyboard pyrotechnics. "Moon Bird," the second track on this new disc from her Be Bread ensemble, is typical, beginning with some querulous, clustered phrases on the piano that become more elaborate runs against shifting jazz harmonies, with melody lines darting hither and yon, then coming to rest in the bass register before introducing a stately, angular unison theme from trumpet (Cuong Vu), clarinet (Ben Goldberg), and guitar (Brandon Ross) against bass (Stomu Takeishi) and drums (Matt Wilson).

Before long, the dynamics drop to a whisper of aleatory plinky-plink strings and spare bass figures before dissolving almost entirely, then build up to full band again and a glorious bebop trumpet solo. Sometimes Melford uses simpler means to create her effects, as in the neo-tango opener, "Through the Same Gate," or the Eastern-tinged bop of "I See a Horizon."

But even a sturdy bop theme like the title track often breaks down into duo or trio sections of free improv. These are pieces chock-full of great writing and great playing, and they never lose their way.

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