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Vijay Iyer: Far from Over

Mike Jurkovic By

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Vijay Iyer sounds so evolved and invigorating with each release that it's easy to forget that his eye-opening debut Memorophilia, Asian Improv Records) was two-plus decades ago. Think about it, Blood Sutra, Historicity, Accelerando, Tirtha...

But over the course of his ECM five disc career (beginning with 2014's Mutations), there has been a little bit of creative wood shedding. Not lazy, mind you, that would be impossible with the chops and concepts Iyer consistently displays. It's some un-explainable spark, like the spark that lit the fires of resistance and resilience, the punch and vibrancy, powering the music mentioned in paragraph one.

So it was with equal tinctures of excitement and trepidation that I approached Far From Over. But a keener title cannot be fathomed, for Vijay instantly allays any anxiety and lets it all loose with "Poles" the first of many of Far From Over's high-flying excursions. A rubber band ride of creativity and virtuoso playing with Mark Shim's tenor soaring, weaving, bobbing around the leader's Fender Rhodes and the rhythm section of stalwarts bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The title composition blows the walls down, leaving a hole for the funky blue, Steely Dan trip "Nope" to come loping through, the horns of Shim, Steve Lehman, alto sax, and Graham Haynes, son of drummer Roy, coronet, flugelhorn, delivering the New York synch and grit. The atmospheric, '60s Miles influenced "End of The Tunnel" gives way to "Down to The Wire" an exultant, free-form blow. The compelling trio setting "For Amiri Baraka" is a touching, alluring eulogy for the deceased poet and activist that quiets the proceedings with one of Iyer's most riveting melodies in recent memory.

Truthfully, the next couple tracks, though compelling, don't quite challenge the ear or the mind. That is until "Threnody" echoes the tensile beauty of "For Amiri Baraka" with a quartet grouping featuring Lehman's biting alto. The track builds and builds then catches its breath after eight thrilling minutes. It'll take you less time to hit replay.

Track Listing: Poles; Far from Over; Nope; End of the Tunnel; Down to the Wire; For Amiri Baraka; Into Action; Wake; Good on the Ground; Threnody.

Personnel: Vijay Iyer: piano, Fender Rhodes; Graham Haynes: cornet, flugelhorn, electronics; Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Mark Shim: tenor saxophone; Stephan Crump: double-bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Title: Far from Over | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records

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