Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret
with Liberty Ellman, Cuong Vu, Ted Poor & Stomu Takeishi
The year 2020 was the thirtieth anniversary of Jump, the avant-garde pianist and composer Myra Melford’s debut as a bandleader. Back then, before she found her longtime home in the music department at UC Berkeley, she was a pianist in her early thirties with a short résumé and budding renown among the New York jazz elite—a native of the Midwest who had fallen for boogie-woogie piano, headed northwest for college, and took from it a passion for Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill. Arriving in the city in the late eighties, she embarked on a career in improvised music’s most challenging ensembles that is only getting better with time.
Snowy Egret features five of the sharpest players working today: Melford, drummer Ted Poor, bassist Stomu Takeishi, guitarist Liberty Ellman, and trumpeter Cuong Vu. “A few decades from now,” The Nation said, “the fact that these five people all once played in the same band may be as hard to imagine as the fact that, in 1953, there was a jazz quintet featuring Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach.” The occasion was to praise the group’s “wholly superb” 2018 album, The Other Side of Air. Even when quiet and calm, as on the gorgeous “Turn & Coda,” the music hums with an electric rapport.
At the center of it all is Melford, whose playing can be rambunctious or restrained, punchy or plaintive, with thirty years of high-stakes innovation concentrated in each note.