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 Wangaratta 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.
Everything Here Is Possible is receiving great reviews and the recording received an APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award (Australia) in August 2014.
Here at AustralianJazz.net we were intrigued – the music on the CD is hauntingly beautiful and we could feel the simpatico that exists between the two players. We asked Alister and Myra to tell us more about how it all worked – from their point of view.
AustralianJazz.net: How do you know each other?
Alister Spence: I met Myra when a mutual friend Satoko Fujii (composer pianist) introduced us. At the time Myra was intending to come to Australia and was seeking help with organizing things at the Australian end. My partner Sue had helped Satoko with this in the past, and Satoko passed on Sue’s contact to Myra.
Myra Melford: As Alister says, we met through our mutual friend, pianist/composer Satoko Fujii. I wrote to Alister on Satoko’s recommendation when I was trying to develop a tour for Trio M, the collectively-led band I’m in with Mark Dresser and Matt Wilson. He suggested his partner, Sue, might be able to help us—which she did. And Alister then proposed that we do something, as well, while I was in Australia.
AJN: What sowed the seed for this collaboration?
Alister: For many years I have been listening to and admiring Myra’s work. A few years ago Satoko gave me a copy of a great duo album that she and Myra made together called Under The Water. I had previously had the great joy to play in an improvised duo setting with Satoko in Tokyo in 2008 and also for ABC radio in 2011. So I emailed Myra to see if she might be interested for us to play together if it could be arranged: knowing that Myra was similarly involved in this type of musical interaction. Of course Myra didn’t know me, so I wasn’t sure what the reply would be!
Myra: Well actually, Alister did then send some more of his music to listen to, including a recent trio cd, and I did feel a real affinity for his approach to composing and improvising. There was a beautiful lyrical and spacious quality to his sound, as well as an adventurous spirit and the ability to express many different moods/qualities in his playing. This resonated deeply with my own approach to music-making.
AJN: How did you approach the music on this recording – were there particular requirements in terms of composition, improvisation, instruments, space, location?
Alister: I think the only words we had beforehand were to decide that it would be best to record improvisations together. Apart from that we really discussed very little about the approach that this recording would take. I met Myra for the first time, on the afternoon of the recording at a workshop she was conducting for SIMA with her trio, Trio M, and then we drove directly to the session. In the session we really just made a start and then went from there. At one point I think we might have discussed whether we would swap instruments (they were two beautiful concert grand Steinway D’s in the Eugene Goossens Hall at ABC, Sydney), but then once we had started, we just stayed where we were, as everything seemed to just flow naturally and it was best not to interrupt this.
Myra: Alister arranged for us to record in the beautiful studio at the ABC, so it was really a very lovely and well-engineered location and process. We agreed to start with an open, that is, unplanned, improvisation, and see what happened. As I recall, we were both quite comfortable with that and continued to use that as are MO for the session. Allowing the pieces to express different kinds of vocabulary from one to the next. I remember that while we each have our own very distinct sound and way of playing, that they seemed to converse in a way that I found intriguing and really fun to explore over the course of the session.
AJN: What did you get out of the experience?
Alister: Playing with Myra was a terrific experience! Pretty much after the first ten seconds or so it seemed that whatever one of us wanted to play, it would work out alright, because the other person would accommodate to it and extend the ideas further. There have been times in listening back to this recording where I have to think hard to remember who is doing what! Myra is such a wonderful listener and so quick to react and create interesting material and so sensitive to nuance. Each piece in the session seemed like a constant and unchecked unfolding of ideas.
Myra: I completely agree with Alister on this, couldn’t say it better, except to add that he has fantastic ears and sensitivity to sound and energy, and that made him a very companionable duet partner!
In just a sentence, what strikes you most about the recording?
Alister: Personally I think this recording is a beautiful, buoyant and cohesive set of improvised music that celebrates the piano.
Myra: I hadn’t listened to the session in many months, and it was a joy to hear the finished product from that distance; I’m very grateful to Alister for not only initiating this project, but to seeing it through to such a beautiful document of our first meeting.