Fieldwork: Your Life Flashes (2002)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
A good portion of the Fieldwork trio's music is composed, revealing an originality and maturity in their individual and collective playing of complex yet approachable free sounding pieces for even the most "mainstream" of listeners. Having separately performed with Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, "Butch" Morris, Anthony Braxton, fellow Pi recording artist Henry Threadgill, and Andrew Hill, to Steve Coleman and Cecil Taylor (whom all three have played with) - Fieldwork is truly a band much greater than the sum of its parts, let alone influences.
Along with saxophonist Aaron Stewart, Fieldwork features one of the handful of fairly new pianists to keep a sharp ear out for in Vijay Iyer. Percussion and drum dynamo Elliot Humberto Kavee convincingly makes the traditional bass-less tenor trio concept seem more like a massive undercurrent of unannounced and uncredited guest drummers and percussionists via his polyrhythmic wizardry. Fresh on the heels of Iyer's appearance at the memorable Verizon Jazz Festival solo piano series at the Jazz Standard in late September, the group's debut CD, Your Life Flashes, comes out the first of this month. Nine of the ten primarily up-tempo tracks are around the 5 to 6-minute mark. No one sits still or plays in a repetitive rut as the music moves in an upward, if not at the very least forward, direction from the opening moments.
The choice of no bassist was an astute one as Iyer performs bass, melody, and rhythm throughout. His simultaneous individual-handed approach creates the distinct impression of more than one pianist (e.g. "Sublimation"). Kavee, likewise, amply demonstrates the superfluity of a bassist, weaving lines with and against Iyer. This is music so textural (and without overdubbing) that the three perform as if they could accommodate further tasks and elements if called upon to do whilst improvising. This is clearly heard on "Generations", one of the two non-up-tempo numbers, a topographic venture of elevation and wide open valleys with its fair share of serious momentum surges.
At times, the piano and percussion parts are deceivingly interchangeable ("Sympathy"), as if the beats are a result of one another coming from the opposite hand of the same player. The relentless thrust is successful because of outstanding interplay, and unlike many disjunct free-for-alls, the collective's synchronization of "random" sounds fill in any awkward silence. This is music on the move - minimalism is another world altogether. The music of Fieldwork simultaneously grabs even the average pair of ears and pushes boundaries without ever alienating.
Track Listing: In Medias Res, Accumulated Gestrues, Sublimation, Generations, Mosiac, Sympathy, Step Lively, Horoscope, The Inner World, Path of Action
Personnel: Vijay Iyer, piano; Elliot Humberto Kavee, drms; Aaron Stewart, tenor sax
Record Label: Pi Recordings
Style: Modern Jazz