705

Vijay Iyer and His Trio Come to Williamstown, MA

Lyn Horton By

Sign in to view read count
Iyer possesses a stunning ability to compose formally; his awareness of how sound works in layers, hooks and intercepts shows itself brilliantly in his music.
Vijay Iyer Trio
Williamstown Jazz Festival
Sterling and Francine Art Institute
Williamstown, Massachusetts

May 6, 2009



Last year, Vijay Iyer produced the much acclaimed Tragicomic with a quartet that included alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. But, for the Williamstown Jazz Festival, Iyer assembled a trio portion of the same group. Stephan Crump played the bass; Marcus Gilmore was on drums; and Iyer, on piano. The trio performed as if no part was missing. In fact, the trio communicated a solidity and strength in a performance of music that sits on the border between vanguard and mainstream, improvisational and fully composed.

The three gave a vibrant balanced performance: an Iyer original yet to be recorded as well as other Iyer originals; a Stevie Wonder tune; "Smoke Stack" by Andrew Hill; a Bernstein song from West Side Story; "Becoming" from the quartet album; and a riveting performance of Julius Hemphill's "Dogon A.D." Certainly the multi- faceted program gave the group a wealth of material to present, but the essence of the material was conveyed in the sheer musicality of it. How Iyer and his band fashioned it brought attention not to the tunes, but to the musical flow. No matter whether or not the flow was interrupted from time to time with abrupt changes in temperament or cadence: the substance of the pieces was shifted around within defined limits and it was those limits that allowed the substance to sparkle.

The music started slowly and elegantly as if everyone had exhaled and was ready to venture into territory that was both familiar and unknown. Iyer was careful to plot out phrases with his right hand as his left laid down quiet bass chords. Drummer Gilmore broke his silence with his brushes gracing the ride cymbal. As Iyer pressed through a crescendo, the bass introduced itself with a broad tonality. Crump plucked evenly in half the time that Iyer landed bass chords. There was no rhythm, just atmosphere. Then the tempo changed. Iyer drew tremolos and abstract phrasings out of his bag of sonorities; the chords he played with both hands collected and reshaped the sound entities he had laid out. The string bass provided the continuo, filling in when the piano and drums were briefly dis-engaged between phrases or licks. The snare was snapped, the sticks and cymbals were patterning the rhythm that cast a web over the two-handed piano syncopation, followed by near ostinatos from the treble to the bass notes, which were askew and edgy. Then the trio became one.

The adamant dynamics of the textures overtook the tunefulness, blossoming as a statement describing the music's motivation. It seemed that no dominating harmonic texture or outright rhythm carried the players. Iyer's fingering of the keyboard directed the bass and drums to the next step. The changes were numerous and clean-cut. Building up and taking down became a modus operandi to reach the source material. Each instrument planted detail after detail, from trills to phrases on the piano to half glissandos on the bass that countered the dryness of the snare syncopation with the piano; the group was telling the story of instrumental interdependence.


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "WDR Jazz Fest 2016" Live Reviews WDR Jazz Fest 2016
by Phillip Woolever
Published: March 8, 2016
Read "Wynton Marsalis Quintet at The Palace Theater" Live Reviews Wynton Marsalis Quintet at The Palace Theater
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 4, 2016
Read "Dave Liebman Expansions at Chris’ Jazz Café" Live Reviews Dave Liebman Expansions at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: March 15, 2016
Read "Jazzkaar 2016" Live Reviews Jazzkaar 2016
by Martin Longley
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "Euopean Jazz Conference 2016: Polish Jazz Showcases" Live Reviews Euopean Jazz Conference 2016: Polish Jazz Showcases
by Ian Patterson
Published: October 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!