The Vijay Iyer Trio has worked together for more than a decade, and Break Stuff reminds us that it remains a backbone of this musician’s art. The last year has been a prolific one for Iyer, a pianist and musical thinker who has been on some roll: a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013, a Harvard professorship in 2014, and last year’s productive signing with ECM, the granddaddy of prestige independent labels in jazz. Break Stuff, featuring just Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump, and drummer Marcus Gilmore, may be the least grand of the composer’s recent projects, but it should be the most telling.
Though Break Stuff is Vijay Iyer's third appearance on ECM in less than year, it is the debut offering from the longstanding trio on the label. The pianist and composer has been working with bassist Stephen Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore for more than a decade. They've issued two previous recordings together. Iyer usually works conceptually, and Break Stuff is no exception.
Pianist Vijay Iyer’s 11-year-old trio is a highly manoeuvrable vehicle for his African, Indian and maths-inspired rhythmic ideas, now at a dizzying pinnacle of contemporary jazz multitasking. Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore sound joined at the hip even when sometimes seeming to be investigating completely different tunes, but almost everything here feels just as jazz-rooted as the three classic covers on the tracklist. Break Stuff is a fascinating flurry of short, bustling phrases and pumping chords that opens out into longer lines against a steady drum hit, and the excellent Diptych blends rattling waywardness and angular basslines with contrastingly purposeful and seamless piano improv.
It’s not a put-on. Bob Dylan’s “Shadows in the Night,” an album of 10 songs that were all recorded by Frank Sinatra, is a tribute from one venerated American musician to another, a reconsideration of a school of songwriting, a feat of technical nostalgia and a reckoning with love and death ….
MacArthur “genius” fellow, Harvard professor, and former Yale math and physics major Vijay Iyer returns to his 11-year-old trio for this, his third ECM disc after 2014’s chamber-music set “Mutations” and film-and-music project “Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi. ” Like the pianist and composer’s other trio records, it makes for a satisfying, portable Iyer, alternating math-y rhythmic concoctions like the post-minimalist “Hood” (for the Detroit techno producer DJ Robert Hood) and “Mystery Woman” (which draws from the compound rhythms of South Indian music) with varied jazz standards (Thelonious Monk’s “Work,” John Coltrane’s “Countdown,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count”) and more atmospheric originals. Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump, and drummer Marcus Gilmore have fully incorporated electronica and hip-hop into a jazz vocabulary.