156

Vijay Iyer Trio: Washington, DC, April 30, 2011

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
Vijay Iyer Trio

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

Washington, DC

April 30, 2011

Sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, pianist Vijay Iyer's concert placed his innovative trio in the sumptuous setting of Washington, DC's Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The domed ceilings and intricate décor provided an appropriate backdrop to Iyer's powerfully evocative, enormously creative musical explorations, the serenity and seriousness of the space reflecting the complexity and spiritual clarity of Iyer's music as the repurposing of the building mirrored Iyer's ability to be modern, while maintaining continuity with multiple musical lineages.

Much has been written about the kaleidoscopically challenging and innovative compositional achievements, as well as the technical virtuosity, that can be found on Iyer's recordings. But audience members unfamiliar with Iyer and his trio's live performances may not have been prepared for the sheer excitement that Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Chris Persad Group, The Dautaj, Marcus Gilmore , Coquito, Fri were able to produce live.

No recording can capture the abundance of force behind this trio's playing, or the textural density developed by the band—in large part due to Crump's astounding inventiveness, particularly when bowing. In fact, Crump may very well have stolen the show, whether delivering extended solos, the notes blossoming like flowers in a hanging garden, or introducing layers of sonic texture via bowed glissandi. Add to that Gilmore's rhythmic dexterity and subtle manipulation of his set's tonal dimensions, and the Iyer Trio's live material took on a power almost three-dimensional in nature. Each tune unfolded into an articulated structure, its architecture defined by Iyer's complex lines, the space delineated by Gilmore and Crump's throbbing rhythms; the whole adorned by the dramatic, multicolored tapestries of the bands dynamic interplay and soaring solos.

Packed into the historic synagogue's pews, audience members were treated to an impressive musical array covering new originals, pieces drawn from the groundbreaking Historicity (ACT, 2009), reworked jazz standards, and thoroughly deconstructed pop tunes. The trio opened the set with a gorgeous rendition of a tune by Flying Lotus , the name of which, humorously, none of the band members could remember. Centered on a simple, ethereal melody floating like a memory just out of reach, the piece built slowly to a powerful crescendo that set the stage with an intensity that remained for the rest of the extended concert.

One thrilling tune after another followed, as Iyer, Crump, and Gilmore adeptly broke down and reconstituted each piece's component parts in what seemed the creative equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. Tunes like Bud Powell's "Coming Up," the deconstructed funk of "Dogon A.D.," and the head-long "Cardio" blistered with dark, tumultuous energy, while the poignant "Ascent" and Iyer's solo homage to Duke Ellington )(a DC native) displayed a contrasting, patiently developed quiescence. The trio was equally successful repurposing Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother," done as an encore, as it was converting Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" into an uplifting celebration.

As a pianist, Iyer has developed a style so thoroughly his own it is difficult to pinpoint antecedent or influence, a rare accomplishment even in a genre often defined by just this aspiration. As a composer, he has pushed the edges of modern jazz's contours. And as a bandleader, Iyer has made the most intelligent choice of all: he has surrounded himself with artists of equal ingenuity, grace, and distinction. The most marked feature of the evening's performance was the stature of each performer in his own right and the fluidity with which the trio as a unit worked together to create its distinctive sound.

Shop

More Articles

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 Kronos Festival 2017 Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Michele Hendricks at Sunset Jazz Club" Live Reviews Michele Hendricks at Sunset Jazz Club
by Patricia Myers
Published: August 9, 2016
Read "Kronos Festival 2017" Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Monterey Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Monterey Jazz Festival 2016
by Josef Woodard
Published: September 26, 2016
Read "Sarajevo Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Sarajevo Jazz Festival 2016
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: November 18, 2016
Read "Steven Wilson at Theatre St-Denis" Live Reviews Steven Wilson at Theatre St-Denis
by John Kelman
Published: March 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!