Whorls of piano, insistent rhythm, and keening saxophone evince a sense of urgency on "Revolutions, opening pianist Vijay Iyer's Reimagining and establishing its tone. For several years, Iyer has gained critical notice for his technique and its application in a variety of settings. His personalized sound draws from contemporary styles, traditional world music, and jazz and is delivered with an emphasis that reminds listeners the piano is a percussion instrument.
Reimagining is the first of a multi-CD deal with the rejuvenated Savoy Jazz label; it picks up where Iyer left off on Blood Sutra, his 2003 independent release on Artists House. Two frequent collaborators, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and bassist Stephen Crump, are back, and eighteen year-old wunderkind drummer Marcus Gilmore completes the quartet this time.
The compositions are often built around and propelled by the rhythm section. On "Infogee's Cakewalk, Gilmore brings a funky groove, offsetting the open bass line, providing the stage for Iyer and Mahanthappa to trade emphatic solos. The saxophonist lays out on "Cardio, a romp with a burbling feel against a repeating piano vamp, which Iyer tweaks to avoid monotony. Another trio piece, "Inertia, finds the pianist hammering the keys, with one hand matching the bass as the other hand counters the lurching movement with a spare melody line. The minimalist piano phrase and linear movement of "Song for Midwood elicit suspense and tension befitting a soundtrack. Momentum drives each piece, except the solo piano reworking of John Lennon's "Imagine, which feels like an afterthought, despite highlighting Iyer's softer, lyrical side. The music's strength is its tight interplay, as on "Phalanx with its kinetic, stuttering motion anchored by Crump and dazzling solos from the rest of the quartet.
An emergent young artist, Iyer's confident compositions, playing, and bandleading on Reimagining suggest dynamic possibilities to come.
1. Revolutions 2. Inertia 3. Song For Midwood 4. Infogee's Cakewalk 5. The Big Almost 6. Cardio 7. Experience 8. Composites 9. Phalanx 10. Imagine
Vijay Iyer: piano; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Stephan Crump: bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums
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