Vijay Iyer

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Architextures Review

by David R. Adler

Pianist Vijay Iyer splits his sophomore outing between his trio (with bassist Jeff Brock and drummer Brad Hargreaves) and an octet featuring Hargreaves, guitarist Liberty Ellman, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, two tenor saxophonists (Eric Crystal and Aaron Stewart), and two bassists (Brock and Kevin Ellington Mingus). As on his debut, 1995's Memorophilia, Iyer is after a sound that combines modern jazz with elements inspired by the South Asian diaspora of which he is a part. The clearest references to non-Western music appear on "Three Peas," which features Mahanthappa and the two bassists. Otherwise, Iyer's multifarious influences are harder to separate or even detect, as they're deeply interwoven within the dense stew of rhythms and improvisational dialogues undertaken by both ensembles. There's an opaque quality and a relentless intensity in much of Iyer's music. Pianistically, he has something in common with non-traditional players such as Jason Moran and Ethan Iverson (neither of whom were prominent at the time of this recording). As a composer, Iyer draws upon figures such as Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor, and Steve Coleman, but he is clearly arriving at his own highly complex style. Architextures, by the way, would be Iyer's last album as a Bay Area musician. He moved to New York in the late '90s to begin associations with a whole new family of players, although Rudresh Mahanthappa, Liberty Ellman, and Aaron Stewart also made the move around the same time.

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