Steve Lehman, Alto Saxophone; Graham Haynes, Cornet, Flugelhorn, Electronics; Stephen Crump, Double Bass; Tyshawn Sorey, Drums; Vijay Iyer, Piano, Electric Piano; Mark Shim, Tenor Saxophone
After successful outings for ECM in groupings ranging from duets (with Wadada Leo Smith) to a string quartet plus piano/electronics quintet, Vijay Iyer returns for his fifth recording for the label with a jazz sextet date, Far From Over. This time out, he dispenses with synthetic manipulations in favor of an old school resource: an electric piano. This plus concert grand are prominently featured, but by no means dominate the proceedings. Iyer affords his collaborators considerable latitude. Given the level of artists with whom he is partnering, this is a wise choice indeed.
Graham Haynes, in particular, is new to me and makes a forceful impression. His clarion parts on unison tutti, derby calls on the title track, and crackling electronics on “End of the Tunnel” impress both melodically and texturally. Altoist Steven Lehman supplies a formidably funky solo on album opener “Poles.” Recent MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Tyshawn Sorey gives a forceful master class in polyrhythmic drumming on the title track (and elsewhere). He and bassist Stephen Crump make an admirable rhythm section duo, in frequent dialogue yet also able to sustain simultaneous alternative pathways. The sextet may be the only jazz ensemble with two MacArthur grant holders – Iyer was previously awarded one as well. “Down to the Wire” features energetic soloing both from the pianist and tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, whose round tone and extensive range are put to good use.
The group as a whole tackles unison sections with enviably well-coordinated yet energetic performances. Far From Over is one of the most impressive jazz outings this year, from the standpoint of solos, collective offerings, and engaging compositions. Recommended.
I am very proud of flutist Gina Izzo and pianist Erika Dohi. Their duo, known as Righteous Girls, performs twice in Japan this week. They are presenting their Gathering Blueproject, recorded on New Focus Records, at Horie Arte, 1-18-17 Kita-Horie, Osaka, Japan,on June 3rd and 5th at 7:30 PM.
Gathering Blue features composers Ambrose Akinmusire, Andy Akiho, Dave Molk, Jonathan Ragonese, Pascal Le Bouef, Randy Woolf, and Vijay Iyer. Gina and Erika have also included my duo “For Milton:” an homage to Milton Babbitt that mixes serial outer sections with a slice of swing in the middle.
I’m excited to have my music visit Japan: I hope to get there myself someday!
A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke is a duo outing featuring keyboardist (and recently hired Harvard Professor) Vijay Iyer and trumpeter elder statesman Wadada Leo Smith. The most striking aspect of the duo’s approach is their willingness to cede each other space in the proceedings. Thus instead of the rapid call and response we frequently hear from jazz duos, here there are often successive solos which mine connected musical territories.
The central part of the album is an extended suite titled A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke. Dedicated to Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), it finds the duo exploring a variety of textures. In addition to piano, Iyer breaks out electronics and a Fender Rhodes, leavening the proceedings with a judicious use of each. Smith frequently explores the stratospheric range of his instrument, punctuating his solos with trills, staccato outbursts, and overblowing. When the two come together in closer colloquy, the intervening soloing morphs into an impressively rich stack of piquant harmonies and imitative gestures.
The CD closes with a truly beautiful composition by Smith, “Marian Anderson,” named after the celebrated African-American contralto. Along with the album opener, Iyer’s “Passage,” it brings out a different demeanor from the musicians: lyrical, less angular, and more directly collaborative. While one certainly appreciates the approach on the central suite, offsetting it with these two tunes is an elegant touch.
I am thrilled that on July 10th Righteous Girls are releasing their debut album, Gathering Blue, on New Focus Recordings . It contains works by Andy Akiho, Akinmusire, Pascal Le Boeuf, Vijay Iyer, Dave Molk, Mike Perdue, Jonathan Ragonese, and Randy Woolf, as well as my own “For Milton,” an homage to Milton Babbitt that is influenced in equal parts by jazz and serialism. Gathering Blue received a NewMusic USAProject Grant, a very competitive award to garner. There will be a release party for the CD at Joe’s Pubon August 7th, followed by a tour supporting the CD with dates in Washington DC, Baltimore MD, and Carrboro NC.
Pianist Vijay Iyer’s latest ECM release, Break Stuff, is out in the US on February 10. The recording features bassist Stephan Crump, and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Encompassing compositions by Monk and Coltrane, an homage to early hip hop, excerpts from Iyer’s Open City project and from a suite premiered at MoMA, Break Stuff may access far flung influences, but it is crystallized by the trio’s incendiary playing and excellent rapport.