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The melodic hooks are not obvious. The harmonies are not lush or comforting. And the rhythms won't be easy to tap along with. But Fieldwork's Simulated Progress is not a free-form blast of notes from three soloists playing near each other. Instead it is a result of careful listening to bring disparate elements together, with room for improvisation within focused forms that are not instantly apparent. Elliptical lines from the saxophone, out-of-phase piano, and skittering grooves are woven in elaborate designs by Steve Lehman, Vijay Iyer, and Elliot Humberto Kavee, respectively, incorporating their diverse backgrounds for greater collective results.
The stuttering but fleet rhythmic pulse of "Headlong finds Kavee supporting a twisting solo run by Iyer, who continues to punctuate the bass part that underlies and supports the piece. After some fire-breathing from Lehman, the tune abruptly cuts out and the plodding insistent piano of "Transgression offers the saxophonist a chance to revel in longer, fluttering lines. The pieces illuminate the fluidity between the roles of soloist and support, a hallmark for the group's emphasis on collective improvisation rather than soloing atop established changes.
The first set of day two of last month's stand at Jazz Gallery found Fieldworkwith new drummer Tyshawn Soreyexploring the kinetic, with quick tempos and louder dynamic peaks, especially the drummer's explosive cymbal flurries and concise, powerful drum fills. Iyer seemed to orchestrate the proceedings, offering ominous piano lines to cover the low end, springing Lehman's reedy alto for some crafty counterpoint. The trio landed together in tighter ensemble passages, serving as effective contrast to their longer, oblique designs. Similarly, "Infogee Dub, from the recording, brought more texture to the concert, with Iyer tapping a bass line from the strings inside the piano and offering a repeating melodic motif of softer, higher piano notes, as Sorey reigned in his pyrotechnics for subdued ambience.
Though not all listeners may appreciate what Frank Zappa might call its "statistical density, Fieldwork has been a fertile project for these young artists to hone their craft and experiment with new approaches within a mutually supportive collective.