The Poetry Center's In Common Writers Series, supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, re-commences this Fall 2019 with a double-program featuring outstanding composer-improvisers Fay Victor, visiting from her home in Brooklyn, New York (she is in the Bay Area as an Artist in Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts), and Myra Melford, with us from across the Bay, in Berkeley. At 1:00 pm Thursday October 3, they present a workshop performance at The Poetry Center. Then at 7:30 pm we move to the Center for New Music in downtown San Francisco, for a duo performance followed by an open conversation with the audience. Both events are free and open to the public; for the Center for New Music performance please reserve a free ticket with C4NM here.
“She’s essentially invented her own hybrid of song and spoken word, a scat style for today’s avant-garde.”
—Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times, on Fay Victor
Brooklyn, NY based sound artist/composer Fay Victor hones a unique vision for the vocalist’s role in jazz and improvised music, pushing the vocal envelope forward regarding repertoire, improvisation, and composition. Victor encompasses a distinctive vocalizing, language, and performing approach with the foundation of the jazz vocal idiom, invoking an “everything is everything” aesthetic that brings in references that span the globe. Victor sees the vocal instrument in itself as full of possibilities of sound exploration, the voice a direct and powerful conduit for language and messages in an improvising context. All of these ideas aim to forge greater expressive possibilities. In Victor’s nine critically acclaimed albums as a leader one can hear the through line of expansive expression leading up to her most recent release, Wet Robots (ESP Disk, 2018) with her SoundNoiseFUNK project.
Victor has performed with luminaries such as Dr. Randy Weston, Gary Bartz, Misha Mengelberg, Archie Shepp, Nicole Mitchell, Myra Melford, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Billy Martin and Tyshawn Sorey. Performance highlights include The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), The Hammer Museum (LA), The Kolner Philharmonie (Germany), De Young Museum (SF), Symphony Space (NY), The Apollo Theatre (NY) the Bimhuis (Netherlands), Vision Festival (NYC), Earshot Jazz Festival (Seattle) & the Winter JazzFest (NY, NY). Victor was the 2017 Herb Albert/Yaddo Fellow in Music Composition where she composed Faith, The Gift — a 12 movement tribute to the life of her mother, Faith E.S.Victor. In addition to Wet Robots, Victor also appears on William Parker’s Voices Fall From the Sky (AUM Fidelity, 2018), Nicole Mitchell’s Maroon Cloud (FPE Records, 2018) recording and Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (ANTI-records, 2018), the latter featuring Victor as well as guest vocalists Tom Waits, Steve Earle and Meshell Ndegeocello amongst others. Victor is a music educator and vocal specialist of the highest order and currently on the faculty of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. She continues to give clinics and workshops at home in New York City and around the world. More at fayvictor.com; follow Fay Victor on social media, Twitter & IG: @freesongsinger
"Pianist-composer Myra Melford has often placed her music at the fulcrum between gleaming beauty and turbulent unrest. This is music with an endless capacity for elasticity and surprise, along with an affirming spirit of coherence." —NPR Best 50 Albums of 2018, on Myra Melford's Snowy Egret, The Other Side of Air
The pianist, composer, bandleader and educator Myra Melford—whom The New Yorker called “a stalwart of the new-jazz movement”—has spent the last three decades making brilliant original music that is equally challenging and engaging. Culling inspiration from a wide range of sources including Cecil Taylor, the blues and boogie-woogie of her native Chicago, the poetry of Rumi, the AACM, and yoga, she’s explored an array of formats, among them ruminative solo-piano recitals, deeply interactive combos and ambitious multidisciplinary programs. Melford’s most recent release, The Other Side of Air (Firehouse 12), by her quintet Snowy Egret, is an extraordinary document of her unique creative language—a seamless, shifting blend of composition and improvisation, and a probing of the space shared between dynamic small-group jazz and contemporary chamber music. Since debuting on record as a bandleader in 1990, she’s built a discography of more than 20 albums as a leader or co-leader, and has collaborated with such luminaries as Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, Liberty Ellman, Erik Friedlander, Ben Goldberg, Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Ron Miles, Nicole Mitchell, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Speed, Stomu Takeishi, Cuong Vu, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Melford’s teachers and mentors include Butch Morris, Henry Threadgill, Jaki Byard, Don Pullen and other icons of jazz postmodernism, and she has received some of the most prestigious honors available to an improvising musician: numerous DownBeat poll placings, a 2000 Fulbright scholarship, a 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music and, in 2013, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts.
After having been an influential presence in New York since the mid-’80s, Melford relocated to the Bay Area in 2004, to join the music department at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Professor of Composition and Improvisational Practices. She continues to bring cutting-edge jazz and new music to the campus community via her teaching and as a guest curator for the Cal Performances organization. More at myramelford.com