Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Vijay Iyer - Break Stuff (ECM, 2015)

Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer’s most recent album for the ECM label shows him reuniting with his long standing trio of Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. They present a wide ranging program of originals, adaptations from a jazz and spoken word project and jazz standards from John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Billy Strayhorn. On this album Iyer looks to explore the breaks and spaciousness that can develop within songs and between musicians. Previously the trio had been invited by the novelist Teju Cole to accompany him on a reading of his novel Open City and Iyer was particularly impressed by the evocative description of birds within the work. Pieces of that overall suite are interspersed through this album with the performances “Starlings”, “Geese” and “Wrens.” The music of famous jazz composers is one of the highlights of this album, ranging from the fragile and contemplative reading of Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count” to the very fast version of John Coltrane’s “Countdown” which starts of solo and builds ever faster as the other members of the trio join into the fold. Iyer has stated that Thelonious Monk is one of his greatest inspirations and this is shown quite readily on their version of Monk’s “Work.” The make the song their own by ducking and weaving around in their improvisations, then hinting at the melody and working off of it. “Hood” takes the idea of breaks even further, incorporating aspects of hip-hop into the music which takes things in a deeply rhythmic direction. This was a very well done album, one that did not focus on soloing, but rather the interaction between the musicians and their engagement with the material. They take the music and use it as a basis for evolving and exploring by deeply listening. Break Stuff - amazon.com

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