Vijay Iyer Trio
This new version of the Vijay Iyer Trio features players known to each other – and players known for their work out on their own and in various other combos. Iyer (piano) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) have worked together on and off for 20 years – bassist Linda May Han Oh has worked with both musicians separately as well as this trio first debuting around about 2014. But here on a set of recordings from late 2019 – only just released this month – we get to hear the proper announcement of the new Vijay Iyer Trio: Supergroup!
Iyer’s bouncing, gorgeous melodies work best when the interplay is pitched near frenzy-level with loads of improvisation and constant collaboration. He couldn’t have two better partners in crime. It’s also a thrill to hear Sorey back behind the kit since the composer and multi-instrumentalist is, increasingly, being called on for his long-form compositions and his own piano-playing and horn work. He is an absolutely thrilling drummer, so much musicality bursts from him. Oh is mesmeric on the bass, taking her time to make any big announcements but felt every single step of the way.
Most of the tunes here are originals from Iyer – though some date back a few years. The title track is a decade old and has been performed previously, there are political statements linked to Black Lives Matter (Combat Breathing) and the Michigan Water Crisis (Children of Flint) that, by title, can be identified as coming from the mid 2010s. And there’s more recent work filling in the spaces – as well as a cover of Geri Allen’s Drummer’s Song (Sorey is absolutely on fire here, splitting the beat and creating an effect akin to when a juggler seemingly has all balls in the air and hands forever dancing). There is also a beautiful take on the standard, Night and Day. The band is in fast shuffle mode for this – Iyer’s delicate touch is sublime.
Other highlights include the band-onslaught that builds to stunning crescendo across Touba, Sorey’s hair-trigger fills that spill across the spaces left in Configurations and the dynamic band interplay that drives, well, everything but if you need a great snapshot-example check Retrofit. Iyer’s piano is just divine – it glides with grace and just the right level of force always and the rhythm section is so brilliantly busy beneath without ever overplaying. Dizzying at times but never too much ever.
One of the great jazz albums of the year has arrived. One of the great albums, period. It was made in late 2019 – it was worked up over a few years before that – but it sounds fresh and vital in 2021. And feels like near career-best from all three of the musicians involved; all three among the best players working in the genre at this time.