Release Date: Aug 25, 2017
Record label: ECM
With recent ECM albums including last year’s duet with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, and 2015’s Break Stuff with bassist Stephan Crump and rhythmically mind-bending drummer Marcus Gilmore, pianist/composer Vijay Iyer has maintained his exciting and exacting standards for small ensembles. Now comes this terrific session for the Iyer Sextet that augments his trio (Tyshawn Sorey is on drums this time) with trumpeter Graham Haynes, and fine saxophonists Steve Lehman and Mark Shim. An object lesson in music for the heart, the head and the feet, Far from Over often sounds like vivacious folk music or displaced blues, reflects the hipness of Miles Davis’s 1960s postbop bands and 70s electronic ones or the contemporaneity of slow-burn Bad Plus buildups, and yet is consistently spine-tingling in improvisations that sound simultaneously inside and outside the harmonies.
The Upshot: Pianist Iyer has already proven himself a jazz master, but here he takes his talent as composer, player, and bandleader to new heights. BY MICHAEL TOLAND Pianist Vijay Iver has built an impressive career over twenty years, channeling his interests in classical music, physics, music cognition and, of course, jazz into a substantial body of work that continues to grow. Far From Over, his first recorded project with his Sextet, not only adds an item to his catalog – it also marks a new milestone.
The retro-minded, hip-hop savvy West Coast scene that spawned Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin and other breakout stars is just one indicator of where jazz is headed. A group of East Coast composer-improvisers – led by pianist Vijay Iyer, saxophonist Steve Lehman and drummer Tyshawn Sorey – have spent the last decade-plus masterminding a more futuristic approach. Back in 2008, Iyer, Lehman and Sorey planted a flag with their stunningly poised prog-jazz collective Fieldwork; now after pursuing their own diverse projects (Iyer's genre-mashing, Grammy-nominated trio and reflective duo with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith; Lehman's hyper-ambitious octet and globalist avant-rap crew Sélébéyone; Sorey's meditative jazz-meet-classical ventures), the three meet back up under Iyer's leadership on Far From Over, the pianist and Harvard prof's latest for the legendary ECM imprint.
Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer has been so prolific and eclectic during the last 20-plus years that it taxes your musical memory. Sure, there is his trio with Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore that blew our ears open with Historicity in 2009 and then Break Stuff in 2015, but before that he seemed telepathic in multiple quartet dates with alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. And wasn.
After a fertile eight-album spell at Blue Note in the late 50s, which established SONNY CLARK as one of hard bop’s premier ivory tinklers, the Pennsylvania-born pianist wound up on producer Bob Shad’s Big Apple indie label, Time, in 1960. Put in the studio with bassist George Duvivier and ace drummer Max Roach, Clark served up a solitary album for the company (originally released as Sonny Clark Trio), which is the cornerstone of a new 2LP compilation, The 1960 Time Sessions (**** Tompkins Square). Though heavily indebted to Bud Powell, Clark nevertheless found his own distinctive voice on the piano, and on this largely unheralded and forgotten selection of propulsive swingers and blues-inflected ballads, reveals that he could blend a dazzling, fleet-of-finger manual dexterity with an acute musical sensitivity.