Myra Melford – “Life Carries Me This Way”

November 18, 2013


Myra Melford - "Life Carries Me This Way"Regardless of the project, pianist Myra Melford has always possessed a conversational style.  As a member of Trio M, her bursts of keyboard chatter fit seamlessly with the drums and bass of Matt Wilson and Mark Dresser… two artists who also thrive in creating fluid motion from the raw material of crisp statements expressed in bursts of energy.  This style also has suited her well in collaboration with clarinetist Ben Goldberg, both in live performance and also as part of her Be Bread ensemble (which also includes Matt Wilson)… Goldberg’s stylistic expressions match well with Melford’s quirkiness, and the odd melodic beauty they shape with rhythmic patterns that scurry and scrape across the landscape of a tune are terrifically engaging in that way improvised dialog can shatter expectations and inspire new ones.

And it’s especially important not to overlook her Trio and Extended Ensemble recordings for hatOLOGY, in which punches are thrown in bunches, the blues coexists peacefully with avant-garde expressionism, and stormy rhythmic fronts occasionally part clouds to make room for exquisite melodies to slip through.  And at the other end of the spectrum, Melford’s duo recording with fellow-pianist Sakoko Fujii found gentle ways to create environments of chaotic discourse.

And these are just some of the highlights of a performing career that has contributed to projects that typically develop out of sight of the main thoroughfare and which possess an impressive array of original works.  It’s why it’s so hard to believe that this is truly Melford’s first solo effort.

On Life Carries Me This Way, Melford pays tribute to her friend, artist Don Reich, who passed away in 2010, and whose work is the inspiration for the album’s songs.  The personal nature of her connection to the source of the music’s inspiration, the association with existing creative works in the form of paintings, and the intrinsic challenges faced by any musician in a solo setting have resulted in a recording as beautiful as Melford must have intended it to be, and insightful to the listener to hear a facet of Melford’s music that hasn’t often come to light when she has other musicians in the room to converse with.

Your album personnel:  Myra Melford (piano).

On Life Carries Me This Way, Melford doesn’t state the melodies so much as slowly exhale them, like plumes of smoke that mask their final shape until fully revealed.  Though that’s not to say that Melford’s deft use of her instrument’s percussive qualities is abandoned.  On “Park Mechanics,” Melford opens with a demeanor akin to the sunnier side of town, but grows increasingly agitated with flurries of notes.  Not unlike many of her contributions to other projects, the melody is to be discovered in fractured glimpses seen between rhythmic lines.  And on “Piano Music,” her quirky expressiveness assumes a fluid motion that behaves as a story told with an indescribable chronological order.

However, the heart of the album shows itself on melancholy tracks like “Red Beach” and “Red Land (for Don Reich).”  Melford whispers the melody as if from across the room… bits and pieces are captured by the ear, and imagination fills in the rest.  “Japanese Music” is offered up as missives, glittering, as tiny sparks of emotion, whereas “Curtain” is equally obtuse, yet exists at the opposite end of the spectrum, delivered in a deluge of notes in which a little bit of the melody is everywhere all at once.  And then there is the quietly musing “Moonless Night,” which unfolds with an old soul patience.

Intriguingly, there are a couple tracks that adopt these two characteristics, yet end up sounding derived from neither.  The quirky inclinations and declinations of “Attic Music” behave like a melody skipping across a landscape of rolling hills, and “Sagrada Familia” tumbles in tight circles, concerned with form through slight differentiations in the folds.

In many ways, the music of this album comes closest to resembling Melford’s duo collaboration with reedist Marty Ehrlich, an artist who very much fits in stylistically with aforementioned artists like Ben Goldberg and Matt Wilson, and who has a proven talent for eliciting the melodic sensibilities of those he collaborates with.  A recording like Spark shares many of the qualities mentioned thus far, with its comforting tone even when expressing discomfited ideas, and its easy comportment when faced with plenty of space to fill and the immediate understanding of just the right amount of sound to enhance it.

The album ends with “Still Life,” perhaps the most song-like of all the album tracks.  Aside from the allure of its elegance and abounding warmth, the presence of its easily traceable shape provides a sublime palpable finality to an album of strong undercurrents, sensed, but often indirectly.

A beautiful recording.

Released on the Firehouse 12 Records.

Jazz from the Berkeley, California scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp CD&Digital | eMusic | Amazon CD & MP3

The CD version includes photos of Reich originals.

Tiny Reviews: Drye & Drye, Busk, Cirrus, Ale Moller & Bohuslan Big Band, and Bill Carrothers

October 20, 2013

Tiny Reviews edition!

Featured album:  Drye & Drye Open Letter.

Plus:  Busk Nur Eins, Cirrus Meli Melo, Ale Möller & Bohuslan Big Band PegasusBill Carrothers Love and Longing.



Drye & Drye – Open Letter

Drye and Drye - "Open Letter"An enjoyable bop session from the father-son team of Howard and Brian Drye, who each bring an equal share of compositions to the table… all original, and all themed around the influences in their lives, both musical and personal.  Tunes possess a driving force, a definitive linearity, regardless of whether they’re speeding right along or taking a casual stroll through the countryside.  While this is a straight-ahead jazz recording, some tracks, like “Blues for Jimmy” are straight out of the past, whereas a track like “Ossification” has a tone that’s clearly modern, yet never endangers the album’s cohesion.  Strongest moments are when melodies spring from the heart of lovely harmonic development.

Your album personnel:  Howard Drye (baritone sax), Brian Drye (trombone), Jeff Hermanson (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mike McGinnis (clarinet, alto & soprano saxes), Dan Fabricatore (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums).

Released on NCM East.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon: CD/MP3


Other Albums of Note: 


Busk – Nur Eins

Busk - "Nur Eins"Trio of Anders Filipsen on piano, Thomas Rehling on bass, and Lasse Ehn on drums.  Released on the ILK Music label, and this is exactly the kind of piano trio session one would expect them to release… an uneasy serenity, strategic utilization of silences, and moments of spontaneous acerbity.  Sunday morning music for the avant-garde fan.

Released on ILK Music.  Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3


Cirrus – Meli Melo

Cirrus - "Meli Melo"Cirrus is the quartet of Eva Haugen (vocals), Inge Breistein (saxophone), Stein Inge Brækhus (drums), and Theodor Onarheim (bass).  Quiet tunes for quiet rooms.  Out of Norway, so there’s gonna be some expectation of serenity, but this album has got some bite to it from time to time… but it’ll get its teeth into you very calmly.  An album with some personality.  Neat stuff.

Released on Norcd.  Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3


Ale Möller & Bohuslan Big Band – Pegasus

Ale Moller - "Pegasus"Multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller and the Bohuslän Big Band straddle the dividing lines between big band jazz and European folk and throw in little electronic eccentricities here and there.  Music that’s more often to stretch out for a sweeping grandeur, even when the moments are quiet and reserved.  Music that will keep a listener’s interest, either via its beauty or its differentiation from conventional big band albums.  Plenty of nice sections, but especially those contributions of trombonist Karin Hammar.

Released on Prophone Records.  Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3


Bill Carrothers – Love and Longing

Bill Carrothers - "Love and Longing"Bill Carrothers has a quiet energy on piano, one which often expresses itself like a firefly… a tiny light that can be seen from far away, enchanting in the way it dances through the air.  On his newest, Carrothers presents a set of solo tunes, including a few where he adds vocals (with some dramatic effect at times, not unlike the evocative effect of a Tom Waits love song).  It’s a nice laid-back affair, an informality that increases the intimacy of the recording.  For an alternate facet of Carrothers’ music, try his trio recording To the Moon, reviewed on Bird is the Worm.  Also, there’s a nice interview of Carrothers on NPR’s A Blog Supreme.

Released on La Buissonne.  Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | Amazon MP3



The Drye & Drye review is original to Bird is the Worm, but portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights to that reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ “New Arrivals Jazz Picks,” and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks,” reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2013, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.

Tiny Reviews: Fabrizio Bai, Kris Davis, Swedish Mobilia, Marc Cary & Jamie Breiwick

October 12, 2013

Tiny Reviews edition!

Featured album:  Fabrizio Bai Etruscology.

Plus:  Kris Davis Capricorn Climber, Swedish Mobilia Did You Hear Something?, Marc Cary For the Love of Abbey, and Jamie Breiwick Spirits: Live at the Jazz Estate.



Fabrizio Bai – Etruscology

Fabrizio Bai - "Etruscology"Led by the classical guitar of Fabrizio Bai, this quartet session offers up a set of absorbing music with its version of Mediterranean-influenced Jazz.  Some tracks have a languorous seaside disposition that let melodies hover complacently in full view.  Other tracks take a richly textured rhythmic approach, and let the melodies ride the crest of the wave.  In both instances, the quartet provides a clear path to the melody at all times, and that trait taken into account with their personal take on Italian regional folk music provides a strong point of view and some very catchy tunes.  A listen to fourth track “Danzatori di Pietra” sums it up perfectly… memorable melody, dynamic rhythm, and a personal voicing.

Your album personnel:  Fabrizio Bai (classical guitar), Massimo Guerri (saxophones, clarinets), Andrea Beninati (cello, percussion), and Maurizio Costantini (double bass).

Released on Dodicilune Records.

Available at:  eMusic MP3 | Amazon MP3


Other Albums of Note:


Kris Davis – Capricorn Climber

Kris Davis - "Capricorn Climber"Compelling new album by pianist Kris Davis, who delivers plenty of songs shaped with an eerie geometry.  Some tracks possess a disconcerting presence, whereas others drift serenely on uneasy seas.  A strange beauty that both entices and rebuffs.

Your album personnel:  Kris Davis (piano), Mat Maneri (viola), Ingrid Laubrock (sax), Trevor Dunn (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums).

Maneri is having a strong 2013, and he’s hit a plateau where I’m on the brink of saying that if you see his name in the personnel section, just buy the album and don’t think twice.  Stream a track on the artist’s site.

Released on Clean Feed Records.

Available at:  eMusic MP3 | Amazon MP3


Swedish Mobilia – Did You Hear Something?

Swedish Mobilia - "Did You Hear Something"Highly improvisational, and with generous use of electronics and effects, Swedish Mobilia draws up an intriguing display of the unformed nature of raw creativity, performing improvised music that sometimes sounds like the psychedelic Jazz of the past, sometimes sounds like the experimental jazz-rock of the present.  While nothing about this album is pretty, per se, it does have a smokey presence that gives an alluring quality to experimental dissonant music.  Some compelling things going on here.

Your album personnel: Andrea Bolzoni (guitar, electronics), Daniele Frati (drums, percussion), Dario Miranda (bass, electronics), and Luca Aquino (trumpet).

Released on Leo Records.

Available at: eMusic MP3 | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3


Marc Cary – For the Love of Abbey

Marc Cary - "For the Love of Abbey"Solo piano recording from Marc Cary, honoring his longtime mentor (and bandleader) Abbey Lincoln.  Remarkably evocative recording.  Full of life, yet possesses a zen-like expressiveness so that the music never comes off as pushy.  When taking on the challenge of a solo recording, some artists feel the need to bring the fireworks to compensate for the singularity of a solo instrument point of view, but thankfully Cary has the wisdom and confidence to let the songs blossom as they were meant to, and without trying to shape them into something they are not.  A beautiful album that will likely continue to reveal itself with subsequent listens.

Stream a couple album tracks on the artist site.

Released on Motema Records.

Available at:  eMusic MP3 | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3


Jamie Breiwick – Spirits: Live at the Jazz Estate

Jamie Breiwick - "Spirits"Recorded live at the Milwaukee joint The Jazz Estate, this straight-ahead session, led by Jamie Breiwick, has plenty of heart and soul.  Originals, some compositions by Wayne Shorter and Duke Ellington, plus covers of artists like Death Cab For Cutie, Radiohead, and Taylor Swift.  Just a likable album that swings plenty, and expresses melodies with a care and thoughtfulness emphasizing their lyricism.  Good stuff.

Your album personnel:  Jamie Breiwick (trumpet), Tony Barba (tenor sax), Tim Ipsen (bass), and Andrew Green (drums).

Released on Blujazz Productions.

Available at:  eMusic MP3 | Bandcamp CD/Digital | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3



The Fabrizio Bai review is original to Bird is the Worm, but portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights to that reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2013, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.

Laszlo Gardony – “Clarity”

July 30, 2013


Laszlo Gardony - "Clarity"The best solo performance albums bring an intimacy to the affair that locks the listener in place.  A byproduct of the interaction between musician and instrument is the creation of an inviting environment which draws the listener in, and, ultimately, the two-way interaction of musician-instrument becomes a triangle.

It’s not a question of easy tempos or gentle melodies.  Songs can be upbeat and abrupt and dissonant.  The key is in not breaking the bond between listener and musician, a risk that increases as the voices present on a particular recording decreases.  However, risk aside, the solo performance is an opportunity for the musician to embrace the innate vulnerability that incubates within the solitude of just musician and instrument.  To share that with the listener can have a transformative effect.

On Clarity, the new release by piano veteran Laszlo Gardony, the album isn’t an album.  The speakers become a window that opens upon a small room, empty of everything but Gardony and his piano.  The album transforms the music into a live event, spontaneous and full of life and profound thoughtfulness.

Your album personnel:  Laszlo Gardony (piano).

The album is a series of meditative pieces, and possess an interconnectedness that persists even after the silence drops between one song’s end and the beginning of the next.

Opening track “Settling of a Racing Mind” flirts with a rambunctious attitude, but slips into an introspective reverie that leads into second track “Surface Reflections” without missing a bit.  The tone set is one thick with cerebral weightiness and an accompanying shot to the heart.

“Looking Deeper” takes things from a melancholic depth to a higher elevation… an ambling staggered cadence, notes falling in quick succession, hints of gospel, hints of pop, and all of it thoughtfully expressed.  “Finding Strength” is its more cheerful counterpart.

“Better Place” quickens the pulse and thickens the blues.  Upbeat in that special way that the blues can still be hopeful while conveying a sense of weariness… a smile and a sadness.  “Opened Window (Hopeful Horizon)” and “Tempering” push the envelope of that ratio, whereas subsequent song “Resilient Joy” brings a folk charm to a tune that possesses the exuberant heart of a stride and the soul of a blues.  Album closer “Resolution (Perfect Place)” ends with an equally upbeat tone, but stated with a calm restraint.

And it all sounds like the music was delivered in person, just the musician, the piano, and you.

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.

Jazz from the Boston scene.

Available at Bandcamp.  Available at eMusic.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


As I was creating links for this review, I noticed Gardony’s background on this album, located on the About Me page of his site.  It makes for some very insightful reading on his own thoughts about Clarity.  You can read it on his site HERE.

Boyd Lee Dunlop – “The Lake Reflections”

March 10, 2013


Stories like this next one serve as essential reminders of why we should never give up hope.  It’s about pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop and his sophomore release The Lake Reflections.

Boyd Lee Dunlop - "The Lake Reflections"

Dreams and good fortune operate under their own capricious rules and, oftentimes, seem to run contradictory to what we each of us may view as pragmatism or common sense.  Sometimes good things happen to us, seemingly, through no fault of our own, lacking any apparent causality, and yet confers the eminent vindication for refusing to quit.

Your album personnel:  Boyd Lee Dunlop (piano).

Boyd Lee Dunlop, all of 85 years old, released his first album in 2011.  Dunlop began playing piano at an early age.  Living in a poor section of Buffalo, NY, he used a junked piano with missing keys that sat out in his family’s back yard.  His brother, Frankie, played drums.  Frankie Dunlop later went on to have a storied career as a musician, playing on classic jazz albums (and personal favorites) like Thelonious Monk’s Criss Cross and Monk’s Dream and Monk’s live Newport recording with Miles Davis, as well as on Charles Mingus’s Tijuana Moods and Sonny Rollins’ Alfie soundtrack.  In the meantime, Boyd Lee stayed in Buffalo, playing the local circuit in between jobs at the steel mills.  The brothers had divergent career arcs.  Boyd’s path is not an uncommon one.

But then it does get a bit unusual.  In his 80′s, Boyd was now living in a Buffalo nursing home and passing his time playing a junked piano with missing keys that sat in the cafeteria… a piano, ironically, that was not too far removed from the piano that he first drew notes from for the first time nearly 70 years earlier.  Photographer Brendan Bannon visited the nursing home regarding an art project.  However, after meeting Boyd and hearing him play, it wasn’t long before Bannon collaborated with others to get Boyd’s music back into the public sphere.  The result was the 2011 release Boyd’s Blues.

Boyd Lee Dunlop - "Boyd's Blues"

With Buffalo musicians Sabu Adeyola on bass and Virgil Day on drums, the recording is a heartwarming set of straight-ahead classic jazz.  Blues with soul, bop with heart, and music that could not be mistaken for anything but Jazz.  The album, and Boyd’s story, got decent press, and was well received.  Dan Barry wrote a nice article for the New York Times and NPR pubbed an article and on-air story on its Weekend Edition feature.  Live performances were lined up.  Everyone likes a story about a huge comeback, and this one was a classic.

Not long after, Boyd suffered a severe heart attack.  And despite hovering close to death, Boyd has turned that setback into yet another chapter in his comeback story.  After a recovery period, Boyd decided the time was ripe for his sophomore release.

Brendan Bannon - Lake Erie 2A solo piano recording, the songs on The Lake Reflections are inspired by photographs Brendan Bannon took of Lake Erie.  The music reflects the crisp serenity of the source material.  There is a stark beauty to this music, a warm stateliness that possesses both elegance and a smile.

And where Boyd’s Blues moved at a brisk stroll, The Lake Reflections has the slow unhurried pace of a body of water on a lazy afternoon.  Reminiscent of the music of fellow pianist Red Garland’s trio sessions, this is peaceful music that can fill a room with its sound, despite its unassuming, wisp-ish presence.

And it’s the music’s unhurried pace that is the album’s real charmer, in that it allows so much room for Dunlop to breathe.  Moments of dramatic expressiveness are able to maintain their composure within the solo context, and changes in tempo or emotional transitions from warmth to iciness have sufficient time to develop within the expanse of time from first note to last.

And that the music moves at a casual pace, with everything that Dunlop has been through and the numerous times he justifiably may have feared that time was running thin, it supremely illustrates the plateau he’s achieved, that he can come out the other side and record an album of meditative reflection that shines so bright in its own time.

Lovely music and a great story behind it.

Self-Produced, and released on Dunlop’s and Bannon’s Mr. B Sharp Records label.

Jazz from the Buffalo, NY scene.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Boyd’s Blues, also available at Amazon: CD | MP3

And here’s the link again to Dunlop’s artist site.

And here’s the link again to Bannon’s artist site.