All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

453

Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
There is much that is exciting about pianist Vijay Iyer and almost as much that is irritating. The excitement is in the music and the irritation in the miasma of cerebralization that surrounds it. The most recent instance of the latter comes with the packaging for Historicity. Any album title which requires a fairly lengthy liner note to explain it, and which starts, elliptically and gratuitously, with a quote from Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci's The Prison Notebooks, rings alarm bells. Particularly when the given explanation boils down to nine words of plain English: we are all part of the tide of history. And all this to validate the inclusion of six cover versions and two previously recorded originals.



As Iyer and his publicists frequently remind us, before becoming a full-time musician Iyer studied mathematics and physics at Yale and UC Berkeley. The guy has smarts; can we please move on now? For if he isn't careful, Iyer is going to match reed player Anthony Braxton's bone-dry academic posturing and in doing so set himself apart from the sizable audience his music could reach.



That's Iyer's call, of course, though it isn't one his new record company, ACT, is likely to encourage. Since the unexpected, early death of Esbjorn Svensson, the German label has, presumably, been looking around for a piano trio to replace Svensson's E.S.T., and in Iyer's group with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore it may have found it. Like Svensson's, Iyer's music is sonically powerful, is performed with gospel-like intensity, is aware of other styles of modern music, and is almost always propelled by simple motor rhythms, even when using fairly complex time signatures. His music rocks, just like Svensson's did. (Or as Iyer has put it elsewhere: "it's all about letting rational structures become intuitive.")



The highlights of the hugely enjoyable and thoroughly accessible Historicity are probably the covers, though Viyer's throbbing title tune, the album's opener, is a contender. Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere," which follows, is pulled and stretched by Iyer's percussive combination of triple and quadruple time over Crump's solid, four in the bar, walking bass. A great tune given an irresistible recalibration. Next up is hip hop artist M.I.A.'s "Galang," with the appropriate subtitle "Trio Riot Version," which truly inhabits the original and cranks the handle further.



Other covers are Andrew Hill's "Smoke Stack," Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother," Ronnie Foster's "Mystic Brew," and—highlight among highlights—Julius Hemphill's "Dogon A.D.," which, if its composer had in mind the mysterious music and masks tradition of the West African Dogon people, hits the spot precisely.



A galvanizing album. No further explanation necessary. Please.


Track Listing: Historicity; Somewhere; Galang (Trio Riot Version); Helix; Smoke Stack; Big Brother; Dogon A.D.; Mystic Brew (Trixation Version); Trident 2010; Segment For Sentiment #2.

Personnel: Vijay Iyer: piano; Stephan Crump: bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

Title: Historicity | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ACT Music

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden CD/LP/Track Review
Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden
by Chris May
Published: October 22, 2018
Read Remember Love CD/LP/Track Review
Remember Love
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 22, 2018
Read Open Heart CD/LP/Track Review
Open Heart
by Paul Rauch
Published: October 22, 2018
Read Steve Reich: Drumming CD/LP/Track Review
Steve Reich: Drumming
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2018
Read iQba - Jazz Meets Cuban Timba CD/LP/Track Review
iQba - Jazz Meets Cuban Timba
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 21, 2018
Read Globe Unity - 50 Years CD/LP/Track Review
Globe Unity - 50 Years
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2018
Read "Code Girl" CD/LP/Track Review Code Girl
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Dedication" CD/LP/Track Review Dedication
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "Tales From The Dreaming City" CD/LP/Track Review Tales From The Dreaming City
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 30, 2018
Read "Dust Shines" CD/LP/Track Review Dust Shines
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 13, 2018
Read "Unbroken" CD/LP/Track Review Unbroken
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 30, 2018
Read "The Berlin Concert" CD/LP/Track Review The Berlin Concert
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 18, 2018