Myra Melford, Matt Wilson and Mark Dresser are three tremendously accomplished musicians, recording artists, grant winners, etc. who I've admired on record for years, and seen play before in much bigger or trendier venues. So it was a little jarring at first to walk into a little workshop room in a high school, replete with silly high school in-jokes and pictures of teenage big bands on the wall, and 2-Liters of soda in the hallway and be greeted (I was late) by Myra's swirling cluster lines and the sound of Matt's drums. Wilson said towards the end that this gig was a somewhat last-minute, and I guess there was a perfomance/workshop session with the high school jazz ensemble beforehand.
Another jarring thing walking in was how quiet this band was. I've never taken enough note of Mark Dresser's playing, but Matt and Myra have always struck me both live and on record as big, brawny players. (Anyone who saw Matt's wacky quartet at the old Detour can back me here) Matt played primarily with brushes and "swizzle sticks", and while Myra was certainly aggressive, she didn't pound the piano the way I've seen her do in the past. (The rather quiet sound system probably contributed to this too. And Matt did wear a really, really loud orange shirt.) The quietness of the quartet highlighted the equality of voices in the trio- through the first tune I heard, there was a level interplay between Mark and Myra, no solo and accompaniment, but a two voice conversation.
With the exception of "Be Melting Snow", a tune I know from a Same River Twice album, the tunes were simple on the surface, with striaghtforward melodic lines and gospel-ly, traidic harmonies. The last tune, "Freakonomics", even had a quasi- calypso 3/2 groove. "Snow" was more twisty, starting with out of time bass/piano unisons and spreading out into bigger harmonies from there. At the end of the tune, a thorny 8 beat groove served to punctuate everything that preceded it.
Myra's improvising continues to fascinate me. When she plays she hunches her shoulders and wrinkles her face like she's writing at an old typewriter. Her lines alternate between clear single-note melodies and these clustery, whirling lines. It's not simply gestural- there's a direction and shape to the lines, but the individual notes serve the color first and the harmony a distant second. It reminds me a little of shape note singing, or what it might sound like on the piano.
Trio M's tour continues in New York and points west- details on Myra's Myspace page.
Tickets for this concert were provided by DL Media.