The pianist, composer, bandleader and professor Myra Melford—whom the New Yorker called “a stalwart of the new-jazz movement”—has spent the last three decades making brilliant original music that is equally challenging and engaging. Culling inspiration from a wide range of sources including Cecil Taylor, the blues of her native Chicago, the poetry of Fernando Pessoa, literature by Eduardo Galeano, visual art and architecture, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), yoga, and Eastern philosophy; she’s explored an array of formats, among them ruminative solo-piano recitals, deeply interactive combos and ambitious multidisciplinary programs. The Other Side of Air, the most recent release by her quintet Snowy Egret, was named one of the best jazz recordings of 2018 by the New York Times and one of NPR Music’s 50 Best Albums of 2018. “This is music with an endless capacity for elasticity and surprise,” NPR wrote, “along with an affirming spirit of coherence.”

She has received some of the most prestigious honors available to a musician: a 2000 Fulbright scholarship, a 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music and, in 2013, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts. In May of 2019, she collaborated with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, premiering a commissioned work that allowed her to showcase her deep and enduring passion for improvisation, experimentalism, and New Music.

Since debuting on record as a bandleader in 1990, Melford has built a discography of more than 50 albums as a leader or co-leader, and side-person, and has collaborated with such luminaries as Nicole Mitchell, Joelle Leandre, Han Bennink, Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins, Stomu Takeishi, Rudy Royston, Fay Victor, Mary Halvorson, Tomeka Reid, Ingrid Laubrock, Susie Ibarra, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, Michael Formanek, Liberty Ellman, Erik Friedlander, Ben Goldberg, Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Ron Miles, Tyshawn Sorey, Mary Oliver, Michael Sarin, Mark Dresser, Matt Wilson, Allison Miller, Jenny Scheinman, Chris Speed, Cuong Vu, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and the Eco Ensemble. As a young musician in New York City, Melford worked with Butch Morris, Henry Threadgill, and studied with Jaki Byard, Don Pullen and other icons of jazz postmodernism.

After having been an influential presence in New York since 1990, Melford relocated to the Bay Area in 2004, to join the music department at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Professor of Composition and Improvisational Practices. She continues to bring cutting-edge jazz and new music to the campus community via her teaching and as a guest curator for Cal Performances. The organization’s 2019-20 season included a series called the Myra Melford Jazz Platform, with concerts featuring Nicole Mitchell and Josh Kun, the David Virelles Trio, Amir ElSaffar’s Rivers of Sound and a duo double bill of Tim Berne with Matt Mitchell and Ingrid Laubrock with Kris Davis. Melford sees the series as an opportunity to bring to the Bay Area artists she describes as “innovative performers across generations who are blending composition and improvisation in exciting, original ways.”

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