Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

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

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Date Detail Price
Jan9Wed
7:00 pm
Vijay Iyer, Tyshawn Sorey
Amsterdam Bar And Hall
Saint Paul, MN
Jan22Tue
7:30 pm
Vijay Iyer
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
Jan22Tue
9:30 pm
Vijay Iyer
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
Jan23Wed
9:30 pm
Vijay Iyer
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
Jan23Wed
7:30 pm
Vijay Iyer
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
Jan24Thu
9:30 pm
Vijay Iyer
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
Jan24Thu
7:30 pm
Vijay Iyer
Jazz Standard
New York, NY

Related Articles

Read Runner in the Rain CD/LP/Track Review
Runner in the Rain
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 15, 2018
Read Cuarteto Europa CD/LP/Track Review
Cuarteto Europa
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2018
Read Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections CD/LP/Track Review
Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 15, 2018
Read Beggar’s Banquet 50th Anniversary Edition CD/LP/Track Review
Beggar’s Banquet 50th Anniversary Edition
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 15, 2018
Read Intelsat CD/LP/Track Review
Intelsat
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2018
Read World Gardens CD/LP/Track Review
World Gardens
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 14, 2018
Read "In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording" CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 11, 2018
Read "Yequm" CD/LP/Track Review Yequm
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: December 28, 2017
Read "Don't You Wish?" CD/LP/Track Review Don't You Wish?
by Patrick Burnette
Published: March 3, 2018
Read "From Beyond" CD/LP/Track Review From Beyond
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 16, 2018
Read "Cull the Heard" CD/LP/Track Review Cull the Heard
by Samuel Stroup
Published: September 4, 2018
Read "Spell" CD/LP/Track Review Spell
by Jim Worsley
Published: April 15, 2018