Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic (Sunnyside, 2008)
Gracing the cover of this month's Downbeat Magazine (with fellow heavyweights Jason Moran and Matthew Shipp), Vijay Iyer is fast becoming one of the leading composers and pianists on the contemporary jazz scene. Coming hard on the heels of his excellent collaborative album Door with the group Fieldwork, Iyer's new solo album finds him supported by frequent compatriot Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Iyer and Mahanthappa have had a wonderful musical relationship for years and that knowledge of each other's musical worldviews make for some of the many highlights on this disc. "The Weight of Things" open the disc at a ominous pace, living up to it's title by slowly building atmospheric momentum at a dark and heavy pace. "Macaca Please" kicks things into gear with rumbling piano supporting a pinched and nasal sounding alto saxophone solo taken very rapidly. The band really works well together at this breakneck speed, with everybody clicking on all cylinders. Mahanthappa has a unique voice on the horn and is easily distinguished among the litany of altoists. "Aftermath" follows this with a calmer, but still reaching improvisation, sort of following with a period of calm after the storm. Mahanthappa sits out on "Comin' Up" which is a trio improvisation allowing for all three musicians to shine, particularly Crump whose bass is the bass is the heartbeat of the performance. These are just a few examples from a fine album of far reaching modern jazz. Anyone interested in hearing clues to the future direction of the music would do well to listen to the fine music these men are creating.
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