Everything Here Is Possible Alister Spence Music (ASM002)
Alister Spence and Myra Melford
Review by Garry Lee
Sydney-based jazz musician Alister Spence is well known in the Australian jazz scene for his keyboard and piano work and compositions for Wanderlust, his 15 year involvement with the iconoclastic Clarion Fracture Zone (1990 to 2005) and of course his five recordings on Rufus Records as well as performances as Alister Spence Trio with Lloyd Swanton (double bass) and Toby Hall (drums). This trio in recent years has had many successes internationally in performance as well as garnering critical acclaim in international jazz publications.
US pianist and composer Myra Melford has consistently rated in the Downbeat Critics Poll since 1991 and became a Guggenheim fellow in 2013. She lists a wide range of influences to her artistic approach from the 13th century Persian poet, Rumi to fellow pianists John Arthur ‘Jaki’ Byard and Don Pullen as well as reed player Henry Threadgill. Melford has recently been involved in a multi-media work with her quintet Snowy Egret inspired by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. Galeano’s trilogy Memory of Fire is based on myths and early accounts of the history of the Americas. She has also arranged music by Ornette Coleman and Andrew Hill.
Everything Here Is Possible is an aptly titled recording in a tradition of Australian two-piano albums such as the collaboration of Melbourne’s Bob Sedergreen and Tony Gould and the more recent CD by Perth’s Graham Wood and Tom O’Halloran.
When Spence and Melford came together in the Eugene Goossens Hall, Sydney on 9 November 2012 – each seated behind a Steinway D concert grand piano – it is probable that both had as their major inspiration the fact that everything here is possible.
The idea that creative master musicians can take a tabula rasa blank canvas approach to making over 60 minutes of pure spontaneous improvised music is both exhilarating and courageous. Their inspiration at the immediate level is obviously each other but it also must incorporate the musical journeys both individuals have made. As jazz pianists it is difficult to discern a link with say a Duke Ellington or a Thelonious Monk but this is really no longer the point.
The intent of the jazz musician is the significant factor and here the intent appears to be to create a large variety of moods in an improvisatory fashion. It could be argued that an understanding of the traditions of jazz is not required but to me it seems the sensibilities and discipline that jazz requires translates into a far more coherent story told in this case, by storytellers I relate to. It also may be noted that today’s jazz pianist will no doubt have more than a passing acquaintance with great classical piano composers. Certainly 20th century composers including Satie, Ravel and Stravinsky will be well known to artists such as Spence and Melford and if at times fragments or shards of harmony of their legacy intersperse the improvisatory flow it is surely the listener celebrating a collective memory.
It is important that music such as this is recorded and I recommend all to experience a CD of superb recording quality that takes the listener on a unique journey of pleasure, surprises and virtuosity.
Alister Spence (Australia): Steinway D concert grand piano
Myra Melford (United States): Steinway D concert grand piano
Listen and purchase
The CD is available via the Rufus Records website www.rufusrecords.com.au and at Birdland Records www.birdlandrecords.com.au. It is also available through CDbaby.com and on iTunes.
Listen to excerpts on Alister’s website
or the Rufus Records website
The CD on CDBaby
From the media release
Internationally acclaimed US pianist/composer Myra Melford, and one of Australia’s most original pianist/composers, Alister Spence weave an extraordinary, unified soundscape in their first musical encounter.
Everything Here Is Possible is a series of duet piano improvisations recorded at ABC in Sydney in late 2012. At that time Myra was touring in Australia with her band, Trio M, with performances in Perth, Sydney and at Wangarratta Jazz Festival. Alister and Myra had previously ‘met’ on email through a mutual friend, Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii.
The recording session was set up by Gerry Koster, host of the ABC’s radio program Jazz Up Late. Gerry invited Myra and Alister to record an improvised set of music for his show, at the Eugene Goossens Hall in Sydney, with Andre Shrimski as producer and recording engineer for the session.
There was very little discussion beforehand concerning the form the improvisations would take. However, from the first notes (which you hear on this disc) it was clear there was a meeting of musical minds. Both players were listening intently to the music as it evolved, and adapting to each other’s ideas in a natural and organic way.
The result is a wonderful body of work; the two instruments blend together in a manner that makes it often difficult to tell the players apart. At times the music is beautiful, mysterious, playful, angular, but always it is vital and engaged. The five tracks have an entrancing sense of timeless unfolding, as the two performers take you into their singular sound-world.
This is a very special listening experience!
The tracks on the album are unedited and in the order that they were performed.
‘Real time’ preparations were used in the piano by Myra and Alister on two of the tracks.