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Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems

Mark Corroto By

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The Transitory Poems might be the first improvised solo piano recording accomplished by a pair of pianists. Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn are 21st century masters and descendants from the likes of Cecil Taylor, Keith Jarrett, Andrew Hill, Anthony Davis, and Paul Bley. This live duo recording, from 2018 in Budapest, is an act of improvisatory construction where both contribute to the orchestration, structure, and density of eight pieces. We are certainly not hearing James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith in an old-fashioned piano cutting-contest here, nor is this a throwback to late 1970s concerts by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. The music is more like a co-operative collaboration, inspired and dedicated to three pianists, Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams, Geri Allen, and visual artist Jack Whitten.

Although there are no songs dedicated to Roscoe Mitchell here, his influence looms large. Both Iyer and Taborn were members of Mitchell's Note Factory and can be heard on Song For My Sister (ECM, 2002) and Far Side (ECM, 2010). Their experience negotiating Mitchell's compositions and his penchant for full-tilt group improvisation must have been excellent training for these duos. Plus, both musicians seem to enjoy each other's music, performing as a duo on multiple occasions.

"Sensorium" dances, gambols, and skips right-handed (make that 'hands-ed') through sparkling notes that rain down as an intermittent shower. The four hands and 176 keys mixing into a sort of Fibonacci sequence of numbers created to explain that shower. Since the players are co-creating (instead of competing) here, the listener's ability to identify either player is virtually impossible. Both are dedicated to the architecture of the sound. They pull emotions from "S.H.A.R.D.S." and also manipulate tempo. The crowning pieces here are Iyer and Taborn's dedications to Abrams "Clear Mountain," Taylor "Luminous Brewing," and Allen "Meshwork/Libation/When Kabuya Dances." Each piece is improvised although, without such knowledge, all seem composed.

Track Listing: Life Line (seven tensions); Sensorium; Kairos; S.H.A.R.D.S.; Shakedown; Clear Monolith; Luminous Brew; Meshwork_Libation (When Kabuka Dances).

Personnel: Vijay Iyer: piano; Craig Taborn: piano.

Title: The Transitory Poems | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ECM Records

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