Vijay Iyer: Uneasy

Mike Jurkovic By

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Vijay Iyer: Uneasy
If we are watching it all unfold in real time, why not listen in the same way? So, like most things these dire days, Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey start Uneasy on a slow burn that engulfs the listener into another realm beyond isolation, beyond our societies of one.

As the best street music does, Uneasy presents a riot of ideas. Some are finely hewn, others mere hints. Some suggest joy and sorrow, others just suggest. "Children of Flint" stalks the listener, casting shadows. Yet between those shadows, light. Acrobatic by nature, the trio surges forward, playing as if this could be the last thing they play together, the last discussion about justice they'll ever have. Written in yet another tumultuous year for humankind (2014), the oddly choreographed "Combat Breathing," centered by Oh's rich, reflective, hopeful solo and Sorey's deft handling, continues the dialog brazenly.

Brazen too is the breakneck run around Cole Porter's endlessly enjoyable "Night and Day." In the wrong hands the old repertoire warhorse becomes either parody or scholarly interpretation. In the right hands, these particular six hands, here you have it, a darting, robust statement that all is not lost in the blue screen flare. The big screen stare need not make us complacent or joyless. The music, and the spirit it enraptures, move us to smiles.

But it is all an ongoing reconciliation. With its wide, ambient space allowing for anything to enter the frame, "Touba" follows, and one envisions the cities on fire, the prayers for rain and consolation. Geri Allen's "Drummer's Song" is a hypnotic bramble that finds Sorey breaking loose from Allen's melodic sport while Iyer punches insistently at its core. Alone at his instrument, Iyer looks back and "Augury" captures purely the exact same moments of question that we have all experienced countlessly of late. First heard in quartet form on Panoptic Modes (Red Giant, 2001) (re-released in 2010 by Pi Recordings) "Configurations" adapts boldly as Oh re-imagines Stephan Crump's vigorous lines while Iyer and Sorey set out for new horizons. Horizons unveiled via "Entrustment." Horizons that, throughout Uneasy, Iyer, Oh, and Sorey implore us to seek.

Track Listing

Children of Flint; Combat Breathing; Night and Day; Touba; Drummer's Song; Augury; Configurations; Uneasy; Retrofit; Entrustment.


Vijay Iyer: piano; Linda May Han Oh: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Album information

Title: Uneasy | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: ECM Records

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