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...

490

Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist Vijay Iyer's poly-stylistic take on the jazz tradition has fostered collaborations with a wide spectrum of artists, including M-Base founder Steve Coleman, avant-garde legend Roscoe Mitchell and experimental hip-hop conceptualist Mike Ladd. As a self taught musician with a B.S. in Mathematics from Yale and a Masters in Physics and Ph.D in Technology and the Arts from UC Berkley, Iyer brings a visionary sensibility to his projects, always capturing the prevailing zeitgeist.

Tragicomic is Iyer's fourth recording with his longstanding quartet and first for Sunnyside Records. Similar to his previous quartet album, Reimagining (Savoy, 2005), this set includes a handful of trio tracks and a lone solo piano meditation. Iyer's return to an independent label is also a return to a more forceful sound, one that reflects the turmoil he observes in our current society.

Rippling with an undercurrent of rhythmic turbulence, Iyer's compositions reflect his seminal involvement in the M-Base collective. Syncopated polyrhythms, hyperactive metric modulation and odd metered tempos are the kinetic foundation of his systematic approach. With an expansive mindset, he moves beyond his cerebral beginnings to embrace traditional harmonies and thematic development with a sweeping sense of bittersweet melody.

Bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore navigate multiple time signatures, offer harmonic counterpoint and vary timbral dynamics—often in tandem. As Iyer's longstanding foil, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's acerbic, brassy tone and blistering, circuitous salvos comprise an integral part of the group's sound.

Sons of Indian immigrants, Iyer and Mahanthappa's symbiotic accord is incomparable. Their interlocking phrases spiral into poignant barbs on the frenetic "Macaca Please (coined after former Virginian Senator George Allen's historic slur)," coalesce with visceral intensity on the cyclical arpeggios of "Machine Days," and spin knotty contrapuntal lines on the shadowy algorithms of "Without Lions."

Iyer's virtuosic pianism ranges from the silver-toned lyricism of "Mehndi" to the ascending tension of "Threnody." One of four parts of the Tragicomic suite, inspired by a quote from Cornell West and commissioned by Chamber Music America ("Aftermath," "Without Lions," "Machine Days"), "Threnody" demonstrates the quartet's vast dynamic range as they languidly build to a climax of ecstatic emotion. "Aftermath" blossoms with simmering romanticism, a robust impressionistic excursion that reveals Iyer's ability to coax subtle variations from a heartrending theme.

Bud Powell's buoyant "Comin' Up," the ebullient Latin-inflected "Age of Everything" and the oblique funk of "Window Text" are empathetic trio selections, full of interactive brio. "I'm All Smiles" is a graceful solo piano excursion that displays the leader's formidable grasp of tradition. "Becoming" closes the album on an optimistic note, with spiritual overtones.

As Iyer writes in the liner notes, "A tragicomic outlook can ease our pains of metamorphosis and help us dream the next phase into being." A stunning achievement, Tragicomic is one of the year's best albums.

Track Listing: The Weight of Things; Macaca Please; Aftermath; Comin' Up; Without Lions; Mehndi; Age of Everything; Window Text; I'm All Smiles; Machine Days; Threnody; Becoming.

Personnel: Vijay Iyer: piano; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone (1-3, 5, 6, 10, 11); Stephan Crump: bass (1-8, 10-12); Marcus Gilmore: drums (1-8, 10-12).

Title: Tragicomic | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
May7Tue
Vijay Iyer Sextet
Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Davis, CA
$25
May10Fri
Vijay Iyer Sextet
Valley Performing Arts Center
Northridge, CA
$29 - 66
May11Sat
Vijay Iyer Sextet
Valley Performing Arts Center
Northridge, CA
$29 - 66

Related Articles

Read We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Album Reviews
We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration
By Mark Corroto
April 25, 2019
Read Golem Dance Album Reviews
Golem Dance
By Friedrich Kunzmann
April 25, 2019
Read New Jazz Standards, Vol. 4 Album Reviews
New Jazz Standards, Vol. 4
By Dan Bilawsky
April 24, 2019
Read Open Form For Society Album Reviews
Open Form For Society
By Mark Corroto
April 24, 2019
Read Yes Album Reviews
Yes
By John Sharpe
April 24, 2019
Read Avec le temps Album Reviews
Avec le temps
By Mark Sullivan
April 23, 2019
Read Snaketime: The Music Of Moondog Album Reviews
Snaketime: The Music Of Moondog
By Mark Corroto
April 23, 2019