Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando (2012)
On the surface, Accelerando follows the same basic format as Historicity (ACT Music, 2009), the debut of pianist Vijay Iyer's working trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Though once again divided between Iyer's complex originals and some surprising covers, this eclectic sophomore session attains an even greater sense of cohesion than its predecessor, courtesy of a common aesthetic denominator. As Iyer states in the liner notes "This album is in the lineage of American creative music based on dance rhythms." From the rhapsodic crescendos of the pianist's "Optimism" to a phantasmagoric deconstruction of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," Iyer and company re-imagine the role of rhythm in American popular music within the acoustic parameters afforded a traditional piano trio.
A gifted academic with numerous degrees to his credit (including a Ph.D in Technology and the Arts from University of California, Berkeley) Iyer is a post-modern Renaissance man whose cross-cultural collaborations have included a variety of artists, from AACM legends Roscoe Mitchell and Wadada Leo Smith to underground hip-hop artists Das Racist and Mike Ladd. Drawing inspiration from these disparate sources, Iyer's harmonically rich writing and crafty arrangements boast a sophisticated rhythmic sensibility; dynamic tempo shifts, modulating time signatures and interlocking counterpoint imbue his accessible themes with an adventurous and unpredictable foundation.
Serving as his primary rhythm section since 2005, Crump and Gilmore interpret the leader's challenging structures with gracefully understated virtuosity. Crump's pulsating bass lines and Gilmore's cascading salvos interlock with the leader's hypnotic arpeggios and quicksilver runs, their keen interplay generating a beguiling assortment of cantilevered cross-rhythms. The asymmetric pulsations of Heatwave's disco hit "The Star of a Story" and mesmerizing spirals of Iyer's "Actions Speak" are indicative of the trio's riveting approach towards a wide array of material, including intriguing renditions of tunes by Herbie Nichols and Henry Threadgill.
Two distinctive pieces originally scored for dance bring Iyer's concept full circle. The edgy title track, with its capriciously vacillating tempos, was conceived as part of the UnEasy suite for choreographer Karole Armitage. The other is a sublime gospel reading of Duke Ellington's "The Village of the Virgins," which was culled from The River, an opulent ballet score written for Alvin Ailey. Finding thematic concordance in such seemingly dissimilar source material, Accelerando is a masterful collection that balances high-minded conceptualism with heartfelt conviction.
Track Listing: Bode; Optimism; The Star of a Story; Human Nature (Trio Extension); Wildflower; Mmmhmm; Little Pocket Size Demons; Lude; Accelerando; Actions Speak; The Village of the Virgins.
Personnel: Vijay Iyer: piano; Stephan Crump: bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums.