Pianist Myra Melford joins frequent collaborators, double bassist Joelle Leandre and flutist Nicole Mitchell, in a live performance at Galerie Zurcher, in Paris in 2016, for a set of spontaneous improvisations with a warm chamber jazz feeling of masterful dialog.
Tiger Trio (Leandre / Melford / Nicole Mitchell)
Released in: France
"An interesting grouping, with semi-frequent collaborators Joëlle Léandre and Nicole Mitchell teaming up with Myra Melford for a live performance of freely-improvised music. Although each of these players is known for their compositional and improvisational prowess, Melford has done comparatively less work in a purely free vein, so I approached this record with a good deal of inquisitive interest. How would Melford's lyrical approach to the piano, typically working within well-defined compositional parameters, fare in this unstructured context? Quite well, actually. All three musicians establish a sympathetic rapport that results in a beautiful, graceful musical vision.
The group's name (and the title of the record for that matter) is a bit misleading. Most of the music here isn't "tiger"-like at all, and it certainly isn't out-of-control aggressiveness. On the contrary, as freely-improvised music goes, this is remarkably disciplined and focused, with an emphasis on careful collaboration and mutuality that gives each track a unified feel and strong tonal center. I couldn't determine if the names of the tracks were assigned after the recording, but they're all nature-themed: "Bright Sunshine," "Threatening Clouds," "Summer Rain," and so forth. Even here, the titles of the tracks don't always seem obviously connected to the music itself: "Heavy Hail" moves loosely around a deliberate, even meditative bass figure by Léandre and gentle, yearning phrases from Mitchell, and "Dazzling Snow," the record's closer, is one of the record's more rambunctious and ominous tracks, with Melford's percussive left hand in punchy dialogue with Mitchell and Léandre.
But no matter. The music is frequently transfixing and stunning in the intricate interplay involved in its creation. Mitchell's technique on the flute is impressive as always, as she alternately offers multiple tones, rapid runs, and an occasional touch of mysticism (evident on "Heavy Hail" in particular). Melford's approach typically involves dense clusters of notes, particularly in conversation with Léandre, who is as stylistically diverse and virtuosic as always. Whether in dynamically rich, propulsive arco passages or simply plucking a few well-chosen individual notes, Léandre serves as a vital lyrical force, often referencing and elaborating upon the tonal palettes utilized by Melford and Mitchell. On the second track, "Freezing Rain," Léandre matches Melford's agile locutions superbly, the two musicians in perfect rapport, each with the utmost confidence in their own statements but with the care in listening needed to develop their ideas in true conversation. And hearing the three together on "Dust Storm," with Mitchell's swirling flurries dancing around the more percussive contributions of Melford and Léandre, we are given a stirring reminder of just how much music can be created through purely spontaneous improvisation."-Troy Dostert, Free Jazz Blog
• Show Bio for Myra Melford
"For pianist, composer and Guggenheim fellow Myra Melford, the personal and the poetic have always been intimately and deeply connected. Raised outside Chicago in a house designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Melford grew up literally surrounded by art. Where most of us find the beauty in our childhood homes through the memories and associations we make within its four walls, Melford saw early on that aesthetic expression could both be built from and be a structure for profound emotions.
Over the course of a career spanning more than two decades, Melford has taken that lesson to heart, crafting a singular sound world that harmonizes the intricate and the expressive, the meditative and the assertive, the cerebral and the playful. Drawing inspiration from a vast spectrum of cultural and spiritual traditions and artistic disciplines, she has found a "spark of recognition" in sources as diverse as the writings of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi and the Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano; the wisdom of Zen Buddhism and the Huichol Indians of Mexico; and the music of mentors like Jaki Byard, Don Pullen, and Henry Threadgill.
The latest incarnation of this ever-evolving cross-disciplinary dialogue is Language of Dreams, which will premiere in November 2013 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The multi-media work is inspired by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy, a history of the Americas told through indigenous myths and the accounts of European colonizers. The piece will combine music for Melford's quintet Snowy Egret with narration by a multi-lingual actor, dance by Los Angeles-based choreographer Oguri, and video by Bay Area filmmaker David Szlasa.
While Language of Dreams is her most ambitious project to date, it is not the first time that Melford has constructed a piece from such a wealth of disciplines. In 2006, the Walker Arts Center premiered Knock on the Sky, a piece inspired by Albert Camus' essay "The Myth of Sisyphus" and Kobo Abe's novel Woman in the Dunes, in which Melford collaborated with New York City-based choreographer/dancer Dawn Akemi Saito and Austrian architect Michael Haberz.
Snowy Egret, Melford's latest working group, made its debut in 2012. The quintet comprises some of creative music's most inventive and individual voices: trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Melford's spacious, contemplative, exploratory compositions have long attracted and almost demanded such forward-thinking artists. Her past ensembles have included Be Bread, with Cuong Vu, Ben Goldberg, Brandon Ross, Stomu Takeishi, and Matt Wilson; The Same River, Twice, with Dave Douglas, Chris Speed, Erik Friedlander, and Michael Sarin; Crush, with Takeishi, Vu, and Kenny Wolleson.
Melford also currently is one-third of the collective Trio M with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson; their most recent CD, The Guest House, was one of 2012's most acclaimed releases. She also performs in the duo ::Dialogue:: with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and will release her first solo album in October 2013, a collection of work inspired by the paintings of the late visual artist Don Reich.
Melford's musical evolution has long run in parallel with her spiritual search, a personal journey that has led her to Aikido, Siddha Yoga, and the wisdom traditions of the Huichol people of Mexico's central highlands. Sonically, that quest is expressed via her wide-ranging palette, which expands from the piano to the harmonium and electronic keyboards or to amplifying barely audible sounds in the piano's interior. Her playing can build from the blissful and lyrical to the intense and angular, with accents from Indian, African, Cuban and Middle Eastern musics or the cerebral abstraction of European and American jazz and classical experimentalism.
While Melford's music continually reaches toward a state of transcendence, it still remains deeply rooted in the blues traditions she heard growing up in the Chicago area. In 1978, she first encountered violinist Leroy Jenkins, her introduction to the AACM, whose boundary-free, adventurous approach to jazz remains an influence. She would go on to study with Jenkins, together forming the collective trio Equal Interest with multireedist Joseph Jarman in 1997.
Melford moved to the east coast in 1982 and began performing in New York City's thriving Downtown scene, making her recorded debut as a leader in 1990; she has since released more than twenty albums as a leader or co-leader and appeared on more than 40 releases as a side-person. In 2000, she spent a year in North India on a Fulbright scholarship, immersing herself in the region's classical, devotional, and folk music. Melford relocated to the west coast in 2004, joining the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley as an associate professor of contemporary improvised music. There, she engages students in the theory and practice of improvisation, employing diverse creative strategies.
Her work has earned Melford some of the highest accolades in her field. In 2013 alone, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow and received the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Performing Artist Award and a Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts for her efforts to re-imagine the jazz program at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She was also the winner of the 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music. She has been honored numerous times in DownBeat's Critics Poll since 1991 and was nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association as Pianist of the Year in 2008 and 2009 and Composer of the Year in 2004."-Myra Melford Website (http://www.myramelford.com/content/page/display/slug/biography)
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• Show Bio for Joelle Leandre
"Joëlle Léandre (born 12 September 1951 in Aix-en-Provence, France) is a double bassist, vocalist, and composer active in new music and free improvisation.
In the field of contemporary music, she has performed with Pierre Boulez's Ensemble InterContemporain, and worked with Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Both Cage and Giacinto Scelsi have composed works specifically for her.
She gave an historic solo concert in "Jazz em Agosto" in 2007 (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal). In this same top jazz festival, Léandre performed also in the "Quartet Noir", a quartet with quite rare live performances, with Marilyn Crispell, Urs Leimgruber and Fritz Hauser.
She has also collaborated with some of the preeminent musicians in the fields of jazz and improvised music, including Derek Bailey, Barre Phillips, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, India Cooke, Evan Parker, Irène Schweizer, Steve Lacy, Maggie Nicols, Fred Frith, Carlos Zingaro, John Zorn, Susie Ibarra, J. D. Parran, Kevin Norton, Eric Watson, Ernst Reijseger, Akosh S. and Sylvie Courvoisier.
In 1983 she became a member of the European Women Improvising Group (EWIG), which resulted from former Feminist Improvising Group and in later 1980s she co-founded the feminist improvising Trio Les Diaboliques, with Schweizer and Nicols."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo%C3%ABlle_L%C3%A9andre)
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• Show Bio for Nicole Mitchell
"Nicole Mitchell (b. 1967) is a creative flutist, composer, bandleader and educator. As the founder of Black Earth Ensemble, Black Earth Strings, Ice Crystal and Sonic Projections, Mitchell has been repeatedly awarded by DownBeat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association as "Top Flutist of the Year" for the last four years (2010-2014). Mitchell's music celebrates African American culture while reaching across genres and integrating new ideas with moments in the legacy of jazz, gospel, experimentalism, pop and African percussion through albums such as Black Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007), Awakening (Delmark, 2011), and Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler (Firehouse 12, 2008), which received commissioning support from Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works.
Mitchell formerly served as the first woman president of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and has been a member since 1995. In recognition of her impact within the Chicago music and arts education communities, she was named "Chicagoan of the Year" in 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. With her ensembles, as a featured flutist and composer, Mitchell has been a highlight at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
Ms. Mitchell is a recipient of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts (2011) and has been commissioned by Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra and Maggio Fiorentino Chamber Orchestra (Florence, Italy). In 2009, she created Honoring Grace: Michelle Obama for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. She has been a faculty member at the Vancouver Creative Music Institute, the Sherwood Flute Institute, Banff International Jazz Workshop and the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio, and in magazines including Ebony, Downbeat, JazzIz, Jazz Times, Jazz Wise, and American Legacy.
Nicole MItchell is currently a Professor of Music, teaching in "Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology," (ICIT) a new and expansively-minded graduate program at the University of California, Irvine. In November 2014, ICIT was approved for the unleashing of a new MA/PhD program, which will be offered starting fall 2015. Mitchell's recent composition, Flight for Freedom for Creative Flute and Orchestra, a Tribute to Harriet Tubman, premiered with the Chicago Composers' Orchestra in December 2011 and was presented again with CCO in May 2014. She was also commisisoned by Chicago Sinfonietta for Harambee: Road to Victory, for Solo Flute, Choir and Orchestra in January 2012. Her latest commission was from the French Ministry of Culture and the Royaumont Foundation in October 2014, which supported the development and French tour of Beyond Black - a collaboration with kora master Ballake Sissoko, Black Earth Ensemble and friends. Currently Mitchell is preparing her next commission supported by the French American Jazz Exchange, entitled Moments of Fatherhood, featuring Black Earth Ensemble and the Parisian chamber group L'Ensemble Laborintus, to premiere at the Sons d'hiver Jazz Festival in late January 2015.
Among the first class of Doris Duke Artists (2012), Mitchell works to raise respect and integrity for the improvised flute, to contribute her innovative voice to the jazz legacy, and to continue the bold and exciting directions that the AACM has charted for decades. With contemporary ensembles of varying instrumentation and size (from solo to orchestra), Mitchell's mission is to celebrate the power of endless possibility by "creating visionary worlds through music that bridge the familiar and the unknown." She is endorsed by Powell flutes."-Nicole Mitchell Website (http://nicolemitchell.com/)
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Catalog ID: Rog-0074
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Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Live recording at Galerie Zurcher, Paris, France, on March 25th, 2016, by Jean-Marc Foussat.
Joelle Leandre-double bass
Nicole Mitchell-flute, alto flute, piccolo
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1. Lightening (4:24)
2. Freezing Rain (4:29)
3. Dust Storm (3:54)
4. Bright Sunshine (4:47)
5. Heavy Hail (4:50)
6. Threatening Clouds (4:35)
7. Thick Fog (3:48)
8. Summer Rain (4:06)
9. Hurricane (6:30)
10. Drizzling Snow (4:02)