It's been three years since Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore, and Vijay Iyer made a record together, and in that time, the trio's headliner, Iyer, has clawed his way across the keyboard to a pretty exalted place within the jazz world. He's still working hard, but he's about done paying dues, and he makes magazine covers and the top of year-end lists routinely. The man is one of the best in the world at what he does, and he has one of the finest piano sounds, too, mixing big sheets of sound with blood-rush passages of intricate staccato patterns; he also frequently puts the real action in the left hand while the right holds down the harmonic fort, giving him a thundering, heavy sound when he wants it.
Jazz piano trios are kind of like the postal service. No one seems impressed by snail-mail anymore, but does it not do its job? Sure, we have modern technological wizardry, but it has almost forced us into forgetting the logistical wonders of dropping a letter in a mailbox and having it appear at someone else’s house in a matter of days. And just like 4G networks, our tastes for modern chamber jazz have prematurely outgrown the appreciation for acoustic instruments to the point where a heavily distorted cello might strike most of us as “cute”.
It's almost impossible not to consider Accelerando by pianist Vijay Iyer's working trio with bassist Stephen Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore a companion to 2009's excellent Historicity. Its obvious similarities are that it places a handful of originals alongside a host of cover versions. These come from well-known artists from the worlds of jazz, 21st century dance music, and R&B.
Pianist Iyer's trio is a very different one to Brad Mehldau's, but this successor to 2009's Historicity still invites some comparisons in its strong rhythmic drive, ensemble strength and sense of jazz history balanced by an openminded contemporaneity. As with Historicity, Iyer mixes originals with angles on known and lesser-known jazz composers (Ellington, Herbie Nichols, Henry Threadgill). He also re-examines a personal favourite (the Michael Jackson song Human Nature), and vividly recasts Henry Threadgill's brass-and-guitars piece Little Pocket-Sized Demons for piano trio, using Stephan Crump's agile arco bass to suggest the original's tubas.
Another gift of an album from the Grammy-nominated pianist. Daniel Spicer 2012 The huge success of Vijay Iyer’s 2009 album Historicity shot the US pianist into the front rank of global jazz stars – and it’s likely his schedule got just a little bit busier, too. This latest album addresses the sense of life – his, ours, everyone’s – speeding up, becoming more hectic, more densely packed with incident and information.