Firehouse 12 Records To Release Myra Melford’s The Whole Tree Gone January 19th

November 3, 2009

Photo by Jean-Francois Laberine

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,, “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,

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

Jazziz: The Fully Celebrated + Michael Musillami

September 24, 2009

The new Fall 2009 issue of Jazziz features reviews of The Fully Celebrated’s Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity) and the Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds (Playscape Recordings).

“The album feels fresh and playful,” writes Michael Roberts about the former, “displaying the creative exuberance typically associated with young players in the joy-of-discovery phase. [Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs’] approach empasizes wit, accessibility and a willingness to venture into disparate stylistic territories…the longtime bandmates can do more than genre-hop. The Fully Celebrated’s heady blend brims with a vitality that hasn’t ebbed with the passage of time.”

“Guitarist Michael Musillami performs one of the best high-wire acts in jazz,” declares Ed Hazell, “walking the line between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ without ever losing his poise. There’s no predicting the direction of any given tune. Arrangements make consistently imaginative and effective use of the horns. Seamlessly assembled and performed, From Seeds features not such a trio plus three as a fully realized sextet.”

JazzTimes: Garrison Fewell + Michael Musillami

August 28, 2009

The resurgent JazzTimes shows two of our guitarists, Garrison Fewell and Michael Musillami, some love in the newly arrived August/September issue, making its return to active publishing status that much sweeter.

Variable Density Sound Orchestra should be on jazz education syllabi worldwide,” declares Michael J. West in his review of Fewell’s latest release on Boston’s Creative Nation Music. “It demonstrates how even free improvisation depends on musicians listening closely to each other. Guitarist Garrison Fewell’s septet uses some compositional structures, but the real backbone comes from developing and responding to each other’s spontaneous ideas. The products of that chemistry are gorgeous.”

In his review of the Michael Musillami Trio +3’s From Seeds (Playscape Recordings), Chris Kelsey writes, “Vibist Matt Moran, alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller join guitarist Musillami in performing his creative, forward-thinking compositions. The music is exceptional in all respects, from the fiery but respectful readings of Musillami’s tortuous compositions to the inspired solo work by one and all…Musillami is at his best when exploiting his nuanced quasi-acoustic sound, as he lays down long, unpredicatable freeboppish lines. Alessi and Moran are excellent, and Ehrlich is brilliant—his playing here is fresh and impassioned.”

From Seeds An AMN Pick Of The Week

July 15, 2009

Guitarist/composer Michael Musillami‘s latest release, From Seeds (Playscape Recordings), is one of’s Picks of the Week.

The record, the debut of the Michael Musillami Trio + 3, features bassist Joe Fonda, drummer George Schuller, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and vibraphonist Matt Moran.

DownBeat: Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds (Playscape)

July 13, 2009

“Guitarist Michael Musillami has a tone that’s impossible not to love,” declares James Hale in his 4 1/2 star review of Musillami’s latest record in the August issue of DownBeat.

“On From Seeds,” he adds, “Musillami has expanded his trio by adding saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, vibist Matt Moran and trumpeter Ralph Alessi. That makes for a potent sextet, and the guitarist’s writing provides a rich variety of settings.”

Music & More Reviews Michael Musillami’s From Seeds

June 13, 2009

Tim Niland reviewed the Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s new CD, From Seeds (Playscape Recordings), on his blog, Music and More, this past week, calling it “a complex and enjoyable album of modern jazz.”

He added, “Playscape flies a little bit under the radar because their releases are neither way out avant-garde or slavishly retro, but as far as thoughtful, completely modern jazz is concerned, they are one of the finest and most consistent labels and this is another excellent example of their work.”

Hartford Courant: Michael Musillami Trio + 3 At Firehouse 12

May 25, 2009

The Hartford Courant‘s Chuck Obuchowski reviewed the Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s Friday night CD release event for From Seeds (Playscape Recordings) at Firehouse 12 in Sunday’s paper.

“Musillami writes intricate, complex jazz compositions with built-in spaces to allow for lengthy improvisation,” wrote Obuchowski. “In concert, as in the studio, he surrounded himself with musicians who share his fondness for musical adventure. The evening’s final tune, ‘Graphite,’ served as the most powerful example of Musillami’s egalitarian approach; it featured interactive improvised passages by all six musicians in different combinations.”

He added, “Musillami has developed a very distinctive guitar voice over the years. His early work was fluent and well-executed, but in recent years his playing has matured, along with his writing ability.”