Jazz pianist Myra Melford had her first encounter with the avant-garde during her student years in Olympia, Washington, during which she encountered musicians such as Oliver Lake and Anthony Braxton. She then moved to New York City in 1984, broadening both her experiences and her networking. Towards the end of that decade she formed her first trio with Lindsey Horner on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums. At the beginning of the following decade, the three of them were part of the first Knitting Factory tour of Europe; and the trio had bookings of its own, resulting in their first live album.
The title of that album was Alive in the House Of Saints. All of the tracks were recorded in February of 1993 in Heiligenhaus in Germany at a place called simply The Club. The result was a two-CD album. The first part of that album has now been reissued by HAT HUT, about 53 minutes of music distributed over four tracks. The jacket notes list the second part only as being “forthcoming.”
There is enough to enjoy in Melford’s driving, and frequently eccentric, rhythms to make this half of a loaf satisfying unto itself. All of the tracks are generous in duration, and the last two of them are longer than fifteen minutes. That always makes for sufficient time for both Horner and Nicholson to follow their own adventurous improvisatory pursuits.
Ironically, the one feature that does not stand out among the others is dissonance. One only seldom encounters brash sonorities or overly assertive rhetoric. Performance is primarily a matter of exploration, and this is a group in which what is discovered during exploration always takes precedence over the explorers themselves. The result is that the listener is encouraged into taking an attentive stance, rather than challenged to do so. This is a recording through which one begins to appreciate that avant-gardism need not necessarily be driven by provocation.