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  • Jonathan Widran


Sometimes the best pathways to understanding the intention and necessity for innovative artists to make experimental/avant-garde/purely improvisational free jazz can be found in the liner notes of an offbeat project like MZM, which combines the talents, offbeat proclivities and need for freewheeling, often cacophonous expression of veteran musicians Miya Masaoka (21 string koto), Zeena Parkins (electric harp, electronics) and Myra Melford (acoustic and prepared piano).

Originally released in 2017, the collection includes the insightful contextual musings of Nicola L. Hein, who concludes her engaging two panel essay with a line from Friedrich Nietzsche: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

If that was the trio’s guidepost to create the scraping, hypnotic weirdness of “Ant,” the haunting ambiences of “Taurus” and the spacey white noise of “Saturn,” then this is pure disco floor sunshine. The extra electronic punches of “Southern Owl” seal the truly trippy, “grooving” deal.

These three off the beaten path geniuses have collectively worked with a who’s who of adventurous music – from Bjork and Nels Cline to Dave Douglas, Tin Hat and the grandmother of all sonic oddities, Yoko Ono. As you listen, both intrigued and trying your best to make sense of the sweet chaos (which sounds a lot like rush hour in L.A. or NYC, with occasional ambient respites for the mind), keep in mind how rare it is for jazz of any kind to bless us with an all-female trio. It should be more common, and hopefully these trailblazers have laid a foundation to make it just so.

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