Myra Melford

pianist, composer

A fearless musical adventurer – in both her composing and playing – Myra Melford has followed a fascinating path since determining to forge a career in music in 1980. Having studied classical piano into her teens, she had no real exposure to jazz until college. Improvisation rekindled her early love of the piano, and she plunged in to develop a signature style.

At the keyboard, Melford recasts the blues and boogie-woogie of her native Chicago, folds in elements of the music of Eastern Europe and India, and blends them with the rangy, percussive avant-garde approach she cultivated in studies with Don Pullen and Henry Threadgill. This personal musical vocabulary is further enriched by a lush lyricism and organized by an architectural sense of composition that she derived from classical training.

As veteran critic Francis Davis wrote: “(She) is the genuine article, the most gifted pianist/composer to emerge from jazz since Anthony Davis."

With more than 30 recordings in her catalog – including 19 as leader or co-leader – Melford currently divides her time between teaching, composition and performance.

Since 2004, she has been on the music faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where she has developed and taught a series of courses in contemporary jazz and improvisation-based music for performers and composers. She also lectures on innovations in jazz since the 1960s and other topics in contemporary improvised music.