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Alive in the House of Saint
Myra Trio Melford
Alive in the House of Saint
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest


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CD Details

All Artists: Myra Trio Melford
Title: Alive in the House of Saint
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: hatOLOGY
Release Date: 1/30/2007
Album Type: Import
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest
Styles: Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Modern Postbebop, Bebop
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 752156057024

CD Reviews

One of the greats in the annals of contemporary jazz
Adolph Pinelad | Montreal, Quebec Canada | 03/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

Myra Melford - Piano (composer)
Lindsey Horner - Bass
Reggie Nicholson - Drums

For anybody who is interested in listening to a recording that illustrates the transitions that jazz has gone through giving way to avant-garde forms, this is a key recording. With enough anchoring in tradition this live set explores rhythmic counterpoint and melodic explorations in such a way that you can understand how an improvisation can sound like a composition and vice versa.
Listening to the progress of the pieces is fascinating, and strangely enough, this set is very lyrical and has very strong rhythmic moments that will get you nodding along to the time. It is easier to digest than the studio recordings I have heard.
This is a jazz record that anybody into the freer, more cerebral aspect of jazz must have, even if only to relax his or her tired ears.
Myra Melford is often compared to Cecil Taylor, but is definitely much more lyrical than Taylor, and her technique can definitely hold its own in comparison. Cecil Taylor is much more abstract, which makes Melford's work a good gateway to Taylor's difficult but greatly rewarding work. This is not to say that Melford's work is just tool to move on to Taylor, this is an added plus, and not so much to `move on' but `move into'. Melford's work here is masterful and this record could be considered as one of the all time greats of contemporary jazz. Great playing from everyone in the trio and there is flawless communication between the three musicians. Those of you with adventurous ears: I guarantee that you will not be disappointed by this record.
Myra Melford, (a)Live in Germany
Joe Pierre | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"HatHut records released this remixed and remastered 2-CD version of "Alive in the House of Saints" as a limited edition of 3000 CD's in 2001. The original CD release was a single disc set that I reviewed last year:

I'd never heard of Myra Melford, but this album caught my eye in the used bin at a record store because I'm a fan of jazz piano trios and have almost never been disappointed with something on the always adventurous HatHut label. So I popped it in the store's CD player, and was almost immediately impressed with the refreshing sound of Melford dancing away at the keyboard. The older I get, the less often I'm captivated by "new" artists, but this was a great discovery and I took it home after just a few minutes of listening.

Melford is a bit hard to classify -- certainly she's playing jazz, but she straddles between post-bop and avant garde in a way that few others seem able. There are obvious influences of Henry Threadgill (inasmuch as she says so) or even Cecil Taylor at times, but really she reminds me more of Keith Jarrett. This disc is Melford along with also-unknowns-for-me Lindsey Horner (bass) and Reggie Nicholson (drums), live at the Der Club in Germany in 1993. There are six tunes on this single disc spanning 74 minutes of music.

The range of textures here is great -- the album kicks off with "Evening Might Still," a joyous tune full of bounding melody that briefly includes some venturing into dense clusters before yielding to bass and then drum solos. Track 2, "Parts I & II Frank Lloyd Wright Goes West..." then shifts to a more abstract, less melodic, exploration of angular, punctuated attacks full of Cecil Taylor-like percussion in the first half, followed by a meditative, spare, but still mostly amelodic elegy. Somebody's doing a fair amount of vocal growling/singing here (and on the other tracks), and I suspect it's Melford, strengthening my sense of Keith Jarrett's music. Both "And Silence" and "That the Peace" return to a refreshing blend of melody and "out there" excursions that like track 1 have a very upbeat feel, and include some nice soloing by Horner, who is an able player very well served by this recording -- lots of strong, woody sound at the forefront. "Breaking Light" is then more of a spatial ballad before the rollicking and propulsive final tune, "Live Jump," complete with Don Pullen-esque knuckle work and plenty of bass and drum in the spotlight, rounds out this disc. As I say, the music here is overall somewhat hard to categorize, but there's much to enjoy here that is at once cerebral (many of the tune titles are taken from James Joyce, and the liner notes expound on the influence of Wright's architecture on Melford's playing here) and emotional (I can't get away from 'refreshing' and 'upbeat' when I try to put the music to words).

Looking into Melford's biography, it sounds as if she, like Marilyn Crispell, has since mellowed with age (this album was recorded when she was 36) and has become enamored with the harmonium (an instrument I largely despise), but this date seems to be from her fat, fiery years. Though this concert is 15 years old now, it sounds very new to my experienced ears, and I'd love to hear the double album and more of thirtysomething Melford.

And so, here's the update on the 2-CD release. An additional 38 minutes or so are added, with 4 tunes interspersed among the lineup: on disc 1, "Now and Now 1" and "Between Now and Then"; and on disc 2, "Some Kind of Blues" and "Now and Now 2." The liner notes explain that the live recording is actually taken from two distinct concert dates in Germany -- one from 2/5/93 at the Der Club and the other at Alte Oper on 2/3/93 (from which only "Now and Now 2" and "Live Jump" were taken). "Now and Now 1" and "Now and Now 2" are the same tune recorded in either setting and clocking in at almost identical duration, highlighting how much seemingly free improvisational music can be orchestrated and replicated. The tune is a compact (at under 7 minutes, the shortest tunes on these discs) arrangement that starts with some careful explorations and by the 3-minute mark, erupts into increasingly dense cascades of sound in which Melford is just jamming with pounding chords and melodic clusters. The alternate versions are quite similar, with the disc 2 variation just a bit more restrained. "Between Now and Then" on disc 1 likewise starts out with a swinging, open-aired vamp that yields to a bass and then drum solo before Melford resumes the helm and goes off, growling/singing under aggressive pianistics that evoke McCoy Tyner, Horace Tapscott, Don Pullen, Cecil Taylor and/or Keith Jarrett, but are uncompromisingly and uniquely 90's Melford. On disc 2, "Some Kind of Blues" follows the lead of "Breaking Light" with a balladic, bluesy, and melodic exploration to counter the more propulsive spirit that dominates these live concerts.

Melford really is a joy to listen to -- one of just a few jazz pianists that so comfortably straddles swinging melody and lively free exploration. You can see that I liked the single-disc so much, I had to spring for the full double album. I'm glad I did, but I'm also sorry that Melford has since softened her approach. I'm sure some might argue it's like the aging of a fine wine, but to my palate, this album represents Melford at her peak."