Cross/Ways, composer/pianist Myriam Alter’s latest album, her third for Enja Records (released in North America by Justin Time Records), is all about the melodies. The 11 compositions that make up the disc’s program work at the cross way where the melodies and rhythms of diverse cultures meet and play off each other with some memorable results.
Middle Eastern melodies merge with Spanish dance, classical themes mix with smooth jazz in a musical panoply emphasized by the unusual instrumental composition of the sextet Alter has put together for the album. Featured solo work is in the hands of accordionist Luciano Biondini and clarinetist John Ruocco. Michel Bisceglia, who did the arrangements, is on piano. Nic Thys plays acoustic bass, Lander Gyselinck, drums, and Michel Massot, tuba and trumpet. It is an ensemble steeped in world music colored with jazz stylings.
Melodic lines throughout echo familiar themes. Tracks like “Dancing With Tango” and “Back to Dance” seem more like tunes remembered than newly composed pieces. They drip nostalgia, which in this case is a good thing.
“No Man’s Land” combines an exotic “Caravan” vibe with a variety of other influences, while the richly textured “Inviting You” has reminders of Beethoven and Satie. “How Life Can Be” is an intense ballad where the opening melody is given to Massot, before Ruocco and then Bisceglia take over. The title song has the ensemble swinging into some dynamic solo work from Biondini. “Again,” “Weird Mood,” “Don’t Worry,” and “Above All” are other notable numbers on the release.
The final piece on the album, “No Room to Laugh,” has Alter on piano in a spontaneous piece of improvisation dedicated to fellow pianist/composer Mal Waldron with whom Alter has worked. At just under two minutes, one could only have hoped that she could have developed her ideas at greater length.
Cross/Ways is an album filled with melodic warmth and cultural diversity—music to capture your attention.
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