A Trip Away from the Ordinary

Myra-Melford-Snowy-Egret-Cover-Art-300x270Myra Melford, Snowy Egret
A Review

When I first heard that pianist/composer Myra Melford was working on a project whose inspiration was the Memory of Fire trilogy by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, the blood rushed to my ears in anticipation of what I would hear. A masterwork of profound scholarship and imagination, Memory of Fire presents a highly refracted history of the Americas in short, vivid entries drawn from indigenous myths and memories and from written accounts by those who found their way to the New World and stayed—a hemispheric diary that stretches from pre-Columbian civilizations into the 20th century. Inspired by the trilogy, Melford created a multimedia piece, Language of Dreams, that illuminates Galeano’s words with music, video, dance, and recitation. The 10 tracks on Snowy Egret (Enja/Yellowbird) present an instrumental version of most of that music, with the same stunning band assembled for the original project—Ron Miles (trumpet), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Pulling from a musical palette that includes East Indian, African, European, and Latin and Northern American influences, the wizard Melford has created an exceptional work whose scholarship and imagination are worthy of the book that inspired it. Continue reading

Vijay Iyer Trio: Breaking Good

Vijay Iyer Trio: Stephan Crump, Vijay Iyer, Marcus Gilmore. Photo by Bart Babinsky.

Pianist/composer Vijay Iyer (Vid-jay Eye-yer) notes that he has been labeled as “dealing with
abstractions” in his work, and yes, there are abstract qualities to his compositions. It’s
something that you might expect from someone who was working on a Ph.D. in physics before altering course and choosing to pursue a career in music. (He has a Ph.D. in music cognition,
instead.) Nevertheless, his compositions are built on quite concrete ideas of what music is, how it is generated and perceived, and to what purpose. What’s more, his interaction with his
instrument reflects an alert physicality that is not at all abstract. You might say his compositions germinate in his brain but flower in his heart and hands.

DownBeat magazine’s 2014 Pianist of the Year, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist, Iyer will bring brain, heart, and hands to the Outpost this week, with his long-standing trio, featuring virtuosi Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. They are riding on the acclaim for the trio’s latest album, Break Stuff, Iyer’s third release on the ECM label since signing there last year. Continue reading

Sofia Rei: ¡Voz y Corazón!

sofia_reiChoirgirl, classical mezzo-soprano, punk rock drummer, explorer of South American folkloric traditions, and student of jazz, Argentinian singer/songwriter Sofia Rei has crossed many
musical borders. Her passport has always been a strong and supple voice, one of those rare
instruments that bypasses the circuitry of the listener’s brain and plunges right into the chest—it’s a visceral experience.

Faced with choices of what and how to sing, the answer for Rei was easy: Sing it all. That
decision forced her to develop a vocal instrument capable of the task, and it has produced an artist as comfortable singing with John Zorn or Myra Melford as she is with Aquiles Baez or La Bomba de Tiempo. As a songwriter and arranger, she has forged a cross-cultural musical genre, blending jazz and folkloric, acoustic and electronic. It’s only fitting, then, that Rei’s most recent release, De Tierra y Oro, won the 2013 Independent Music Award for best album, and her song “La Gallera” also received top honors.

This Friday, the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Latin Diva Series, under the umbrella of the Chispa musical season, presents Rei in concert with her multinational band, featuring Eric Kurimski (guitar) from the U.S.; Leo Genovese (keyboard), from Argentina; Josh Deutsch
(flugelhorn and trumpet), from the U.S.; Pablo Menares (bass), from Chile; and Franco Pinna (drums and percussion), from Argentina. Continue reading

Opening the Opener: Patti Littlefield and John Rangel (With Update)

Patti Littlefield

Patti Littlefield

The New Mexico jazz audience has had this Thursday night marked on the calendar for weeks: the NEA Jazz Master vocalist Sheila Jordan and her bassist Cameron Brown will be opening the spring season at the Outpost Performance Space. That’s reason enough to get over there, but be sure you’re in your seat at 7:30, because you don’t want to miss the opening act: vocalist Patti
Littlefield and pianist John Rangel. We don’t get to hear either one of them often enough, and they will do
considerably more than just warm you up for Jordan. Continue reading