Pianist, composer, and Guggenheim Fellow Myra Melford has always combined the personal and the poetic. Raised in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, Melford grew up literally surrounded by art, and has since crafted a singular sound world that harmonizes the intricate and the expressive, the meditative and the assertive, the cerebral and the playful. She draws inspiration from a vast spectrum of cultural and spiritual traditions and artistic disciplines, from the writings of Persian poet Rumi and the Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano to the wisdom of Zen Buddhism and the Huichol Indians of Mexico, to the music of mentors like Jaki Byard, Don Pullen, and Henry Threadgill. Melford's spacious, contemplative, exploratory compositions have long attracted and almost demanded such forward-thinking artists; her ensembles have included Cuong Vu, Dave Douglas, Chris Speed, Erik Friedlander, and Kenny Wolleson.
Melford's spiritual journey has led her to study Aikido, Siddha Yoga, and Mexico's Huichol people of Mexico, a quest expressed sonically via her wide-ranging palette, which expands from the piano to the harmonium and electronic keyboards or to amplifying barely audible sounds in the piano's interior. Her playing can build from the blissful and lyrical to the intense and angular, with accents from Indian, African, Cuban, and Middle Eastern music or the cerebral abstraction of European and American jazz and classical experimentalism.
In 2013, Melford was named a Guggenheim Fellow and received both the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Performing Artist Award and a Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts for her efforts to re-imagine the jazz program at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She was also the winner of the 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music. She has been honored numerous times in DownBeat's Critics Poll since 1991 and was nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association as Pianist of the Year in 2008 and 2009 and Composer of the Year in 2004.
Myra released her first solo album in October 2013, a collection of work inspired by the paintings of the late visual artist Don Reich. Myra's most ambitious project was Language of Dreams, premiered at YBCA in November 2013, a multi-media piece which combines narration, dance, and video with music for her latest working group, Snowy Egret. The quintet comprises some of creative music's most inventive and individual voices: trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Jeff Davis.
Myra Melford and Satoko Fujii