Mike Melvoin isn’t a household name, unless you happen to be a jazz pianist or top studio musician here. I recall a great Russian conductor or maybe composer was here once–it may have been Stravinsky when he was living here at 1260 No. Wetherly Drive in West Hollywood –said the studio orchestras and musicians were better than classical orchestras. Well, Mike was one of those talented studio guys.
Mike didn’t try to be a Keith Jarrett or rewrite the book on jazz piano. He was far too unpretentious for that, just a modest, articulate person and pianist. We used to talk on the phone about music. One of the pieces I turned him on to (me turning Mike Melvoin onto a piano work?) was Sviatroslav Richter’s phenomenal 1958 Sofia, Bulgaria recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, played solo by the great Russian pianist. Mike bought it and loved it. Mike used to play at a small and short-lived LA club called the Jazz Spot, which had a hand-made Yamaha grand inside, one of very few around the world. Sviatoslav Richter had one too, which wound up in the late French musicologist Francis Paudras home in Antigny, France (Bertrand Tavernier’s great film Round Midnight was based on Paudras’ friendship with Bud Powell). Bill Evans and other pianists would go to Paudras’ home and play this magnificent piano. Mike knew that instrument well, too, from his gigs at the Jazz Spot.
Mike also took a strong stand against N.A.R.A’s elimination of 31 categories in the recent Grammy Awards, many of them instrumental categories, saying the removal hurt instrumental musicians.
Mike had a curious mind, loved all kinds of music , and life. He deserved a longer one. He will be missed by me and many others. Mike Melvoin rest in peace and may your new domain be filled with music.
Here is a 2011 gig he did at the Culver Club.