UC Berkeley Department of Music Professor Myra Melford’s acclaimed performances with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is now available to download. Entitled A Handful of Keys – A Century of Jazz Piano, the concerts chronicled the progression of jazz piano over the last century and featured works from the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, and Marcus Roberts.
“The Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater is a home for jazz in the broadest sense,” noted Melford in the liner notes. “The performances have welcomed everything from ragtime and dixieland to swing and bebop, the blues and gospel traditions, and the experiments and innovations of the 1960s and beyond.”
Melford’s piece titled “The Strawberry” features renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. A nine-time Grammy winner and National Medal of Arts recipient, Marsalis currently serves as director of the Juilliard Jazz studies program. Fellow pianists on this recording include Indonesian prodigy Joey Alexander (now 14) and American jazz pioneer Dick Hyman (now 90), who is currently serving as National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters fellow.
The diverse programming and talented pianists of A Handful of Keys were especially exciting for Melford. “Backstage during the performance, listening with and to the other pianists, I felt a palpable sense of not only enjoyment and appreciation for the gifts each had to offer, but
inspiration—the possibility of trying something new or different heard in the others’ playing,” said Melford. “What struck me was the unique way in which each guest soloist revealed yet another facet of the rich legacy of jazz piano.”
A recording of A Handful of Keys was released by Blue Engine, a label started in 2015 by Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Handful of Keys” is a reference to jazz pianist’ Fats Waller 1929 seminal jazz piano composition. Jazz at Lincoln Center was established in 1986, and in 2004 they opened the Frederick P. Rose Hall, the first music venue in the world designed specifically for jazz performance.
Melford has been a mainstay as a Professor of Composition and Improvisational Practices since joining UC Berkeley in 2004. Her student ensemble, the Berkeley Nu Jazz Collective, is slated to perform two times during the spring 2018 semester: a noon concert on February 21 in Jazz x 2, sharing the bill with an advanced UC Jazz ensemble; and an evening performance on April 14, opening for a quartet with clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Hamir Atwal and Melford on piano.