July 13, 2024

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Myra Melford a Novara: She had an impetuous encore which concluded a very thoughtful concert: Videos, Photos

And here we are back in the elegant neoclassical courtyard of Palazzo Bellini in Novara. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful locations of Novara Jazz, perfect for a solo piano concert with its intimate atmosphere.

The palace is full of history: two Napoleons have passed through it, the first and the third. And above all the melancholic Carlo Alberto, who after the defeat of 1849 signed his abdication here. One of the few people to resign in Italy, his generals instead remained ‘heroically’ in their place… The building, restored to its former splendor also in the interior by the Banca Popolare di Novara Foundation, will open to the public in autumn with the support of the FAI .

A grand piano peeks out under an arch of the portico, with Myra Melford at the keyboard. A pianist with an original and varied background, she has been active since the beginning of the 90s after having especially treasured her acquaintance with Don Pullen and Henry Threadgill. While his growing fame is linked to ensembles ranging from trios upwards (the two volumes of ‘Alive at the House of Saints’ and ‘Even the Sounds Shine’ for the long-missed Swiss Hat Hut were fundamental), his arrival at solo piano it has remained decidedly more in the shadows and less documented.
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And this made the Novara occasion decidedly precious, not only for the public, but also for the musician: in fact, a skilful layout of the concert was immediately evident, divided into very distinct and carefully alternated pieces in a chessboard structure which sees alternating pieces pointillistic and percussive with others in which the spirit of the song shines through.

In the former, a dry and muscular touch dominates, a sound devoid of nuances and all hard matter with marked dynamic contrasts (sometimes even a little insistent). The prevailing color is dark. One would be tempted to mention Taylor’s name, but perhaps it is a red herring: here there is a dramatic contrast absent in the imposing and granitic Taylorian architecture. Furthermore there are moments of clear brightness and vast spatial openness. Perhaps the most appropriate reminiscence is that of Bartok, an author with whom modern jazz has secret but intense relationships: after all, Melford frequented him for a long time, together with Stravinsky.


In the ‘songs’, however, a singability transpires distorted by a tormented complexity and refined elegiac abandonments. However, everything is always supported by a perennial vibrant tension. And here in my opinion Myra in solo expresses the best of her and her greatest originality. Her dryness and controlled measure also allow her some impressionistic trespassing, a temptation that is almost always fatal and ruinous for others.

An attentive and concentrated audience followed and warmly supported the pianist until a finale with heartfelt and thrilling blues accents. A hot and tired, but visibly satisfied Myra had an impetuous encore which concluded a very thoughtful concert, and above all completely immune from the narcissistic tendencies frequent in the ‘solo piano’ genre. Another beautiful page from the Novara Jazz album. Milton56

And here is Myra grappling with the blues, the moment of truth for every authentic jazzman.

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