Adventurous musical doubleheader to raise money for jazz students

Pianist and composer Myra Melford dreams of inviting world-class jazz musicians such as saxophonist Joshua Redman to teach master classes to her students. That goal has remained beyond reach, however, because the music department can offer only modest honorariums.

So Melford, an associate professor of improvisation and jazz, did what any jazz musician would do. She improvised.

Tunes from Trio M’s “Big Picture” audio slideshow

Modern Pine (composed by Mark Dresser) (6:52 minutes)Modern PineSecrets to Tell You (composed by Myra Melford) (6:00 minutes)Secrets to tell you

Two very different concerts this weekend will benefit the Jazz and Improvised Music Fund, which Melford started last year. In addition to master classes, Melford is raising money for much-needed new instruments and equipment as well as private lessons. There’s not adequate funding, she says, to provide private lessons for all the jazz students who need or deserve them.

Both concerts feature Trio M, one of Melford’s four ongoing musical projects. The leaderless group features Melford on piano, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Matt Wilson.

On Friday, April 23, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Concert Hall, an adventurous evening of music will kick off with the Contemporary Improvisation Ensemble, composed of Berkeley students, alumni, and guests; two other student groups; and Trio M tackling “Cobra,” a large ensemble piece by John Zorn. Trio M will play the second set alone.

The next evening, April 24, Trio M joins forces with Chef Paul Canales of Oakland’s Oliveto Restaurant for “Cooking It Up: Connections Between Improvisation, Music, and Food.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, members of the trio have shared pieces of new compositions, musical themes, and inspiration with Canales. In turn, the chef sent the musicians information about his own creative process. During the performance at Berkeley’s Maybeck Studio, Canales will present generous tastes of food.

The evening will also include a discussion about how Canales and Trio M incorporated — and improvised around — the ideas they exchanged into the food and music they created.

Since Melford came to Berkeley in 2004, she has seen students’ interest in jazz and improvised music grow. She hopes the jazz and improvised music program will one day have its own endowment. “A serious chunk of money would ensure that the program will go on despite the vagaries of the budget,“ she says.

Tickets for the April 23 concert are priced at $5 for UC Berkeley students; $10 students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more; and $15 general admission. They can be purchased at Hertz Hall one hour before the performance, or in advance by phone at 642-9988 or online.

For reservations for the April 24 concert, e-mail Melford. Tickets are priced between $100-$200. Attendance is limited to 30 people.