Myra Melford’s Fire And Water Quintet

For The Love Of Fire And Water
(Rogue Art)

The Fire And Water Quintet takes its name from a collection of drawings by the late American artist Cy Twombly, whose gestural art has long inspired pianist Myra Melford. But the group’s music is so elemental that it’s also tempting to take the name at face value. Perhaps it’s best to let both meanings stand.

Melford originally convened the group as one of two new ensembles that she presented during a weeklong residency in 2019 at The Stone in New York. While she knew instantly that she wanted to keep the group going, the pandemic ensured she had plenty of time to think about what she wanted to do with it before she took it into the studio in summer 2021.

The resulting music is expansive, containing both artfully arranged ensemble passages and freeform encounters between a couple players within an album-length suite. The opening movement feels like a translation of vigorous, scrawling motions into sound, with each instrument laying its mark atop another’s. But the group turns on a dime to realize an intricate, mobile configuration that twists sharply drawn lines around Melford’s theme.

The performers likewise balance flamboyant, instantly recognizable actions with expressions that are necessary, but not showy. Each player’s actions align with the artistic acts and natural phenomena that gave the project its name, which ensures that even the music’s stormiest moments feel very much in tune.