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Myra Melford is the rare experimental pianist who can cut a clear harmonic path for her listeners to follow even as she trolls through a deep, dark forest of sound. Melford’s rare combination of a richly melodic ear and a whimsically devilish mind make her playing both romantic and unbridled. Over her six records as a leader, and through numerous sideperson stints with Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Butch Morris, and Henry Threadgill, Melford has found the perfect balance between loose improvisations and tight compositions. On her latest record, 1997’s Eleven Ghosts (a duo date with drummer Han Bennink), Melford performs everything from on-the-spot improvisations such as the wryly named “The First Mess” to timbral investigations on “Frank Goes To,” and total reinterpretations of tunes like “How Long Blues” and “Maple Leaf Rag.” Melford’s excursions into different methodologies are equally evident on her 1996 record, The Same River, Twice, which moves from avant-garde funk to new music meditations and includes a tune originally written to accompany a poem by local writer Reuben Jackson. Follow Melford’s winding trail of sound when her trio, featuring bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Kenny Wollessen, plays at 8 p.m. at the University of the District of Columbia’s Recital Hall, 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW. $10. (202) 274-5803. (Christopher Porter)