Fairfield University's director of jazz and popular music releases CD with acclaimed French pianist


Image: Brian TorffBassist Brian Torff, director of jazz and popular music at Fairfield University, and award-winning pianist Florence Melnotte have released "Another Great Day," their first CD of jazz standards and original music.

The duo began playing together in 2000 and has performed in clubs, concerts and jazz festivals, bringing an intricate interplay and empathy to the world of improvised music. Their debut CD, recorded in Massachusetts in 2001, showcases their virtuosity and chemistry on swing standards "That Old Feeling" and Yardbird Suite, as well as impressionistic originals by Ms. Melnotte and Mr. Torff.

Mr. Torff has an extensive performing and recording history. His career began in 1974, when bassist Milt Hinton offered him a chance to tour with jazz singer Cleo Laine. During the 1970s, Torff recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland and toured internationally with violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli. He also played in pianist Erroll Garner's last group and worked with Oliver Nelson and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.

Mr. Torff recorded three albums with jazz piano master George Shearing and the duo toured extensively and played for President Reagan at the White House in 1982. Their third album won a Grammy for vocalist Mel Torme.

Mr. Torff is also a noted composer. He has written scores performed by the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony and has appeared as a conductor, composer and clinician for many college and high school jazz festivals.

The New York Times called Mr. Torff "a virtuoso bassist, imaginative and distinctive in his solos, but more than that, a solid composer and arranger."

Born in Paris, Ms. Melnotte studied at l'ecole Normal de Musique de Paris for seven years and has performed solo and with groups for several years. She is most widely known for her work with the innovative Four Roses quartet with whom she tours Europe regularly. Her Florence Melnotte Quartet won first prize honors at the Tremplin d'Avignon in 1995, the Jazz sous les pommiers (Jazz Under the Apple Trees) competition in 1994 and the Tremplin Jazz du Val d'Oise in 1993. The quartet also won second prize at the National Jazz Competition at the Défense in Paris in 1994.

Ms. Melnotte, who now lives in the United States, has performed with James Zollar, John Silverman, Vincent Mascart and Michel N'Ba and has appeared on numerous recordings.

Mr. Torff and Ms. Melnotte launched their CD with a performance with drummer Tony Tedesco on Friday, October 11 at Silvermine Tavern in Norwalk. The CD, on the Bassline Records label, is available at Cutler's in New Haven, Sally's Place in Westport, the Fairfield University bookstore and online at www.briantorff.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 15, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 78