349

Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
The art of the piano trio has enjoyed a healthy renaissance over the past two decades, as a plethora of new stars have ascended the ranks to uphold and advance the tradition. Ethan Iverson, Brad Mehldau, Jason Moran, and Matthew Shipp are just a few of the adventurous younger artists whose notion of the trio is anything but staid, yet firmly linked to the hallowed format's core principles of intimate three-way communication.

Add to this short list Vijay Iyer, whose first proper trio record, Historicity, places him squarely in the company of his peers. As the leader of a visceral post-M-Base quartet featuring alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, bassist Stephan Crump, and drummer Marcus Gilmore, Iyer has occasionally embarked on brief trio excursions with Crump and Gilmore before, but never for an entire recording session. Serving as his rhythm section since 2005's Reimagining (Savoy), Crump and Gilmore's studied rapport belies the underlying complexity of Iyer's oblique structures and unorthodox arrangements, providing this date with graceful concordance.

Featuring a post-modern array of covers, punctuated by a handful of Iyer's characteristically thorny originals, the album successfully blends seemingly disparate source material into a cohesive listening experience, finding common ground among a surprising variety of tunes.

Veering from the avant-garde spectrum—a dramatic, funky take on Julius Hemphill's "Dogon A.D." and a typically abstruse rendition of Andrew Hill's "Smoke Stack"—to the pop mainstream—Ronnie Foster's spellbinding "Mystic Brew," Stevie Wonder's portentous "Big Brother," and M.I.A.'s fervent "Galang"—Iyer covers all bases. He even deconstructs Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere," cascading over Crump and Gilmore's evenhanded pulse with quicksilver cadences that soar with bittersweet optimism.

The trio embraces a multitude of techniques to realize the subtle timbral differences of each song. Crump's pliant pizzicato and resonant arco expand the trio's sonic palette with sinewy muscularity, while Gilmore's polyrhythmic fusillades add layers of temporal intrigue. Iyer reveals a variety of approaches, from blinding chromatic runs and hypnotic arpeggios to spacious introspection, sometimes invoking all in the space of a single tune.

Much has been written about Iyer's academic background (he has a B.S. in Mathematics from Yale, a Masters in Physics and a Ph.D in Technology and the Arts from U.C. Berkeley) and how it informs his intricate writing. Despite their complexity, Iyer's compositions never sound contrived or excessively cerebral. The four originals are demonstrative, incorporating dynamic shifts in tone, modulating time signatures, and interlocking counterpoint—yielding congenial three-way conversations that balance stunning virtuosity with emotional conviction.

A brave step forward for Iyer as an improviser and interpreter, Historicity is a vibrant and thrilling piano trio record by any measure.


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

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Triple Double CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Moments Of Fatherhood" CD/LP/Track Review Moments Of Fatherhood
by John Sharpe
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Brass Mask Live" CD/LP/Track Review Brass Mask Live
by Duncan Heining
Published: May 1, 2017
Read "Resonance" CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "Undertaker Please Drive Slow" CD/LP/Track Review Undertaker Please Drive Slow
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 15, 2017
Read "Evolution" CD/LP/Track Review Evolution
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Begin to Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Begin to Dance
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 19, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.