Myra Melford and Hans Bennink

Eleven Ghosts (Hatology 1994)

Myra Melford is an adventurous jazz pianist who has collaborated with Henry Threadgill, Butch Morris and Dave Douglas while leading her own troupes on a series of albums. Hans Bennink may be one of the most adventurous and creative drummers of the past 40 years. He’s worked with Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Eric Dolphy, The Ex, Derek Bailey, Don Cherry, Peter Brotzmann among many others. Bennink is a drummer who has always been adept at straddling the line between playfulness and ferocity. It is only fitting that these two souls should collaborate on album that makes free jazz somehow delightful and accessible. I love free jazz, but this may be one of the most fun examples of the genre that I’ve heard. If your ears shut themselves off at the mere mention of free jazz, then check this one out since it is alternately absurd, avant-garde and a ray of sunshine. Eleven Ghosts somehow puts a smile on my face even though it is a bit impenetrable at times.

I’m posting this album because it contains one of those moments that reaffirm my faith in music as an uplifting force in my life. These two musicians tackle Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” and turn it inside out and make this ragtime classic into something entirely their own. Melford vamps the timeless chords in an unfamiliar way while Bennink utilizes his bag of rhythmic tricks, bells and whistles to create a entirely new work that alternates between explosiveness and familiarity. It is a fitting finale to an excellent album that properly showcases what these two musicians are capable of in the company of one another.