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Myra Melford's Myriad Sounds

Myra Melford at Jazz at Lincoln Center
© Frank Stewart/JALC
Myra Melford at Jazz at Lincoln Center

What does a line from a James Joyce novel sound like on the piano? Or a scribble from the visual artist Cy Twombly? Can you translate the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright into music? For pianist and composer Myra Melford, there is inspiration in all of the above, "a kind of dialogue for me – a thing to bounce my ideas off of."

For over 30 years, Melford has carved out a musical identity by channeling extra-musical influences while drawing on the history of jazz piano, from James P. Johnson to Thelonious Monk to Cecil Taylor. She can tap into a multitude of styles, any of which might spring to life in an improvisation. In the words of a friend and collaborator, flutist Nicole Mitchell, "she's purely unstoppable."

On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll explore a few of her many facets, as she expresses herself in a variety of ensembles. From her egalitarian unit Trio M, with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson, to the malleable Snowy Egret quintet, which enables her to take flight in any direction. We'll also hear Melford in a big band setting with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.


Snowy Egret: Myra Melford, piano; Ron Miles, cornet; Liberty Ellman, guitar; Stomu Takeishi, bass; Tyshawn Sorey, drums.

Trio M: Myra Melford, piano; Mark Dresser, bass; Matt Wilson, drums.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Ali Jackson, drums, tambourine; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Kenny Rampton, trumpet; Marcus Printup, trumpet; Greg Gisbert, trumpet; Elliot Mason, trombone; Chris Crenshaw, trombone; Vincent Gardner; trombone; Victor Goines, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Ted Nash, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute, piccolo; Sherman Irby, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Walter Blanding, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Paul Nedzela, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Myra Melford, piano.

Set List (all songs by Myra Melford):

  • Trio M, "Promised Land"
  • Snowy Egret, "City of Illusion"
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Myra Melford, "The Strawberry"
  • Snowy Egret, "Small Thoughts"
  • Trio M, "The Guest House"
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Host: Christian McBride; Music Engineer: Rob Macomber; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.