It’s hard to keep up with Vijay Iyer, releasing strong album on top of strong album – here he follows up his ECM debut, with an explosive double-album’s worth of tunes, gorgeous melodies and propulsive playing will delight as Iyer and his rhythm section of more than a decade (Marcus Gilmore on drums, Stephan Crump on bass) return to a more organic approach to jazz, following Iyer’s records that integrate jazz and electronics.
Here it is about Keith Jarrett’ playing and Max Roach’s compositional style, it is about epic workouts (Mystery Woman) alternating with lyrical, stately balladry (Taking Flight). There’s a bird theme across the album and there’s a playfulness in the work here, often dazzling interplay, Gilmore fitting funky little half-steps around Iyer’s flourishes, they fit together like Brubeck and Morello, Crump being the glue as ever.
There are tender moments of near-minimalism (Geese) and taut, frantic whirlpools of sounds (Countdown) and it’s all served with dexterity and sincerity, this is no blowing session, there’s no showing off – it’s always and only for the tunes. But it’s also a mesmerising workbook of jazz. That the ideas continue to tumble and flow is impressive, that they’re this good is (often) astounding. My favourite Vijay Iyer album seems to now be whatever one I’m listening to, and then listening to the most as a result. Right now – and for some months – that’s been Break Stuff. Another sophisticated set from a total class act.