Thu May 18, 2023

Nicole Mitchell / Joelle Leandre / Myra Melford 'Tiger Trio' (USA/F)

Nicole Mitchell: flute
Joelle Leandre: bass
Myra Melford: piano

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Tiger Trio, the inspired union of pianist Myra Melford, bassist Joëlle Léandre and flutist Nicole Mitchell, brings an uncommon lucidity to the art of spontaneous composition. On their debut 2016 release Unleashed (RogueArt), the three pioneering women exhibit a mode of interplay that is “remarkably disciplined and focused, with an emphasis on ... mutuality that gives each track a unified feel” ( In 2018 they recorded their sophomore release Map of Liberation (RogueArt), while on a tour of 11 cities in the US and Europe.

“Map of Liberation... exhibits the combinatory wonders of these three masters’ effusive vitalities, their communication culminating in a jubilant fount of inspiration. There’s an excitement and a joy here that’s not often paralleled in any music. It’s colorful. It’s playful. It’s physical. It’s powerful.” (, Sep 2019)

“Even were the names not gracing the cover, there would be no mistaking the individual voices cultivated by these musicians for so many years: the unmistakably beautiful piano sonorities with which Myra Melford opens “Compassion”; the first notes of “Courage” for a taste of how integrated flute and voice are in Nicole Mitchell’s conception; or the harmonic soaked bass rumblings of Joel̈ le Leá ndre slamming “Reflection” into high gear as points of individual reference. More often than not, however, it is a kind of melding, a spontaneous and lightning-fast merging of creative intuition, which propels this music beyond improvisational exercise into the realms of true dialogue. Here is a supergroup if ever one existed, captured in full flight, or, given the group’s name, in purr, growl and roar. “ (New York City Jazz Record, Jan 2020)

The trio began as a result of Melford’s Doris Duke Building Demand for the Arts Residency at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts in San Francisco (2013-15), intended to aid the center in building an audience for their jazz and improvised music program. This culminated in the New Frequencies Fest: Jazz@YBCA in February of 2015. For her own performance on that festival, Melford chose to invite Léandre and Mitchell, whose duo work on Sisters Where (RogueArt) and collaborations with Thomas Buckner, Michael Dessen and others have shown a potent simpatico. The performance at YBCA revealed a wonderful chemistry, and the three decided to continue working as a collectively led trio. Although the chamber-like texture of the full trio predominates, Tiger Trio weighs all options in terms of orchestration, venturing duo combinations, solo interludes and other unexpected strategies as the music unfolds. “I watch Myra climb into the piano, and Joëlle pull the wood out of her bass,” Mitchell says, “and I see myself squeezing through the flute’s silver holes. We soar through the triangle of women, fiercely committed to the rapture of instrumental sound.”In addition to Melford’s Doris Duke funded residency at YBCA, she has received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Alpert Award in the Arts. A professor at the University of California-Berkeley, she is among the most celebrated pianist-composers of her time, “an explosive player, a virtuoso who shocks and soothes” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Mitchell, a longtime Chicagoan and the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, has been hailed for her “Afrofuturist vision” and credited as “probably the most inventive flutist in the past 30 years of jazz” by The New York Times. Her varied projects and leadership as first woman chair of the AACM have widened the scope of improvised music as a whole.
Léandre, from France, served as Darius Milhaud Visiting Professor at Mills College in Oakland; it was during that time that she and Melford first met and played together. Léandre also received the DAAD grant in Berlin for two years, as well as a Villa Kujoyama Kyoto residency. Prior to that she was Creative Associate at the Center for Performing Arts in Buffalo, NY, working with Morton Feldman and John Cage. Heard on more than 180 CDs, she has been likened by fellow bassist William Parker to “a sculptor carving and shaping musical poems from large blocks of sonic matter.”