Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret

The Other Side Of Air

It’s unsurprising to see pianist Myra Melford mention painter Cy Twombly in her comments about Snowy Egret’s gorgeous new album, The Other Side Of Air. If you think of the sculptural values expressed in some abstract works—volume, density, balance—this music comes to life as a delightful series of intensely colorful, gently precise paintings composed in real time.

More intricate than the swinging narratives of Snowy Egret, the all-star quintet’s lovely debut, The Other Side Of Air announces a distinctively lyrical approach to free improvisation. Working from what appears to be a bare script of melodic and rhythmic ideas, the simpatico players spin out concisely developed segments, never lingering anywhere for long. True to the title of the jagged first track, “Motion Stop Frame,” there are lots of sudden pauses and acute angles. Ron Miles’ cornet and Liberty Ellman’s electric guitar pair for pertly pungent melodic statements, often answered or underscored by Melford’s mellifluous runs. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey and bassist Stomu Takeishi rustle quietly beneath, abetting the tension and drama. Extended techniques gently come into play—airy trumpet squeezes, keyboard rumbles, what sounds like prepared bass. On the long version of the title track (it’s broken into two portions), Ellman swells with celebratory expressiveness.

Delicate yet sturdy, impassioned yet restrained, speedy but uncluttered, pretty but never sentimental, The Other Side Of Air is a lovely place to breathe.