Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review of "Accelerando" by the Vijay Iyer Trio

B Y   A N D R E W   E.   C O L A R U S S O

Accelerando (ACT Music) is a truly synesthetic experience of sensorial accelerations and decelerations woven together in a marvelous tapestry. As a title for the album, Accelerando makes sense. Reminiscent of McCoy Tyner’s epic Fly with the Wind, the connections here made between sound and sense, between melody and improvisation, are immense statements on the ability to compose and comprehend complex registers of emotion through music. Iyer’s sense of formal (dare I say classical) and improvisatory composition, in tandem with an acute awareness of biorhythm, comes together magnificently on Accelerando, securing the Trio among the fore of contemporary Jazz ensembles. With Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore (grandson of the legendary Roy Haynes) on drums the trio ventures into sonic realms both pleasing and mysterious.

Accelerando begins with Bode and Optimism. Bode, aptly titled, imparts a strong sense of foreboding and a heaviness as the bass, piano and drums peak and ebb into a brief silence before Optimism. Tempo picks up gradually, surging into the near din of three musicians playing off of each other before fading into a brief and conclusive silence. Optimism begins with a cool vacillation on the keys, soon complimented by the frenetic movement between snare and cymbal, while the bass keeps time, plucking notes between the gray spaces.  The pairing of Bode and Optimism signs acceleration and experimentation with tempo as the presiding themes for the album. Optimism crescendos in a moving and triumphant blaze of glorious syncopation before Iyer quite literally drops a heavy hand to conclude the piece. I found myself returning to this song most often, gathering a sort of emotional sustenance from the pure energy that went into its making.

From there Accelerando moves into a pair of recognizable covers—The Star of a Story, a cover of a song by 70’s band Heatwave, and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. Both are haunting variations of the originals. Human Nature in particular demonstrates the Trio’s attention to varying dissonance and syncopation. I could almost visually plot the crests and troughs of three waves of sounds that occasion to sync synergistically and then part back into dissonant, parallel threads. The play is distorted, roiling the familiar melody but accruing depth and building anticipation for the moment when, late in the play, the jive dies down to a sparer language. A bow is taken to the bass and finally the King of Pop arrives again warmly, softly in melody, questioning why, why?

Wildflower (perhaps riffing off of the Wayne Shorter classic) and Mmmhmm (by Flying Lotus) share a haunting, almost romantic sweetness and Little Pocket Size Demons (composed by Henry Threadgill) moves into registers of the impish and embroiled. Lude and Accelerando are prime examples of the musical directive that guides their play. Lude is the softer, more rhythmic of the two. The title track is a forceful, almost clumsy, realization of the synergistic strength the trio has. Unfortunately its brevity prevents it from being something greater, lacking the magisterial arc of a track like Optimism. Actions Speak is a frantic expression of rhythm and energy, pushed forward by magnificent solos on drum. The album concludes with the Ellington piece The Village of the Virgins—a calm march toward the finish. 

Like the seminal work of sculpture by Anish Kapoor that graces the cover of the album, the music is sculpted into a physical presence.  This is jazz we can dance to. This is jazz we can contemplate and muse over. Give Accelerando a listen on your way to work. Once you do, I can guarantee you’ll listen to it again and again. 

review first published on Hot Indie News

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