4. In discussing her approach to improvisation in the same interview, Melford referred to her work with composers Butch Morris and Henry Threadgill. She performs on Morris’ Testament: A Conduction Collection (New World Counter Currents; 1995) and Threadgill’s Song Out of My Trees (Black Saint; 1994) and Makin’ a Move (Columbia; 1995).

“I prefer improvisation with parameters over free improvisation, but I try to find innovative ways to change what you do in an improvisation. Since the writing in these works is less song form oriented, less tied to tunes and chord changes, the improvising isn’t either. Sometimes I’ll go into a performance without knowing who is going to solo, or how people will join in at the second “A” or “B.” Often, there’s motivic material that’s thrown around within the group, and you don’t know how that will come out. The improvising is what the writing is supposed to open up, so if you set down what the improvisations will be, you’re defeating the purpose.

“It was Butch that really influenced my ideas about interacting within a piece and how to play off references to the materials. When I first started playing with him I found that I could play in a way that was really comfortable to me, yet stretched me in different ways than my own writing did. Then I found I could do the same thing with Henry. Their music allows that. I allow that, too, and it doesn’t make the music any less mine.

”Henry arranges improvised sections in his compositions. We’ll have landing points in the written material that we’re heading to, but in no way are we following a set rhythmic and bar timed structure. What I love about Henry’s music is the ability to make references to material however and whenever I feel it’s appropriate. Henry is the most important influence that I’m conscious of. What I learned from Henry is still my main approach to composition: use the form that grows out of the material, instead of choosing a form and trying to write within it.”