When Vijay Iyer signed to ECM Records in 2013, he joined a prestigious group of world-class musicians (including fellow pianist Keith Jarrett). With Uneasy, Iyer returns to familiar territory by leading a combo of bass, drums and piano. This album's trio can intuitively improvise and, with the revered pianist-composer at the helm, the music they present is intricate, complex and, at times, enticingly sparse.
Longtime Iyer bassist Stephen Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore sit this one out. As the album opens, Iyer's piano is delicate and cautious as the Uneasy trio sneaks up on us with "Children of Flint." Linda May Han Oh's inquisitive bass quickly follows Iyer while Tyshawn Sorey's understated drums are elusive and allow Iyer time to blossom, and space to explore. On "Combat Breathing," one of several songs nearly ten-minutes long, Iyer begins cautiously and soon showers listeners with a myriad of notes while Sorey's drums snap and snarl. As Iyer has indicated in interviews, the two pieces are reminders to everyone to be aware of the spiky challenges that surround us, including the poison in the Michigan waters and the debilitating divide of race conflicts. The enticing theme of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" is presented next but, after about three familiar minutes, the trio wanders off in search of new sounds and sensations. That is followed by a tribute to the late pianist Geri Allen, an early supporter of Iyer's, and then a shimmering solo piece, "Augury," (in short, an omen) offers an oasis at the album's mid-point. At just three-and-a-half-minutes, it is the collection's shortest offering.
As the album progresses, the listener is presented with swift, deft pianistic explorations via "Configurations," and then Iyer and company are on the prowl with "Uneasy." These are two more of the three extended pieces, and all are creative aural labyrinths. After a opening cascade of music, the final cut eases towards silence with a hymn-like closer. Listeners will most likely be suspended for a moment as they absorb the fading notes. Uneasy is another Iyer chapter that rewards repeated listening and, with Sorey having been awarded a prestigious MacArthur fellowship in 2017 (as bestowed on Iyer in 2013) this new trio may just be bordering on jazz supergroup status.
Children of Flint; Combat Breathing; Night and Day; Touba; Drummer's Song; Augury; Configurations;
Uneasy; Retrofit; Entrustment.
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