On January 19th, Firehouse 12 Records will officially welcome esteemed pianist/composer Myra Melford to its roster with the release of The Whole Tree Gone (FH12-04-01-012), her first recording as a bandleader since 2006. Recorded in the label’s state-of-the-art studio, this is Ms. Melford’s second release with her longstanding ensemble Be Bread, which currently features Cuong Vu (trumpet), Ben Goldberg (clarinets), Brandon Ross (guitars), Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums). It documents the latest evolution of eight original compositions she has been performing with this ensemble, and others, for the past five years. The band will celebrate its new release by touring both the East and West coasts in January.
“Most of the music on this record came from a suite titled The Whole Place Goes Up, written in the fall of 2004 with the support of a Chamber Music America grant,” Ms. Melford explains in the liner notes. “‘Moon Bird’ was written for a concert at the MOMA Sculpture Garden (NYC) in July 2005. Though originally written for Be Bread, I’ve enjoyed performing this music over the past few years with many wonderful musicians in several configurations, including the multimedia performance Knock on the Sky and my duo with Marty Ehrlich. My heartfelt gratitude to the musicians who’ve given a part of themselves to bring this music to life, and to all the other people who have inspired and supported my efforts in many ways for many years.”
Founded in 2002, Be Bread was conceived as an outlet for new compositions Ms. Melford wrote following an extended stay in India studying the harmonium as a Fulbright Scholar. The group has since utilized a variety of other timbres as well, including Ms. Melford’s melodica, Ross’ banjo and electronically manipulated sounds. Most recently, it has performed as an acoustic sextet focused on the instrumentation and commissioned suite of pieces heard on The Whole Tree Gone. Critics called Be Bread’s 2006 debut, The Image of Your Body (Cryptogramophone), “artful and intelligent” (Michael Keefe, PopMatters.com), “contemplative, introspective work” (Mike Shanley, JazzTimes) and “another superb release from Melford, whose evolution from a more aggressive free player to an equally unencumbered melodist is a path well worth following” (John Kelman, AllAboutJazz.com).
Over the course of two decades and more than 30 recordings, Ms. Melford has carved out a distinctive niche among the creative music’s most respected pianist-composers. Her signature sound skillfully combines early influences such as classical music and the traditional blues piano styles of her native Chicago with her later immersion in the music of Eastern Europe and India and extensive musical studies with such legendary figures as Ran Blake, Jaki Byard, Don Pullen and Henry Threadgill. In addition to Be Bread, she currently leads/co-leads a variety of ensembles, including Happy Whistlings, Trio M and duos with multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich, pianist Satoko Fujii and dancer/choreographers Oguri and Dawn Akemi Saito. Since 2004, she has also served on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where she develops and teaches courses about contemporary improvised music. Learn more at http://myramelford.com