Vijay Iyer Trio – Accelerando

I don’t usually buy ‘hot new albums’ – it’s not that I’m against anything new, and I am most certainly not against anything ‘hot’ – it’s just that there is so much music available that can’t fall into the category of ‘hot and new’ that I get distracted by the beauty that is easily available.

So, typically I virtually missed the Vijaya Iyer onslaught. Grammy’s don’t interest me, (yes I know – what a purist) and I trust my gut when I chase the music. However, what I find is everything of value eventually falls into the net. If you maintain an interest, steer clear of agenda, everything worth anything will find its way into your lap.

And that’s how it is with the latest from the Vijay Iyer Trio – Accelerando. I’m playing it now (again) as I write this review, thrilled the beauty and technical skill of Vijay Iyer. He may not be overtly experimental, but its the recreations that are the most interesting – and I have to add lots of fun, and a stunning little piece of ear candy.

Taking songs that have nothing to do with jazz and making them so jazz they’ll never be anything other than jazz is a rich tradition.  I think first of Lea DeLaria’s brilliant version of Call Me, which is probably the greatest cover ever – but then I’m not here to carry on about that right now. What hits you on this great album is the ‘covers’ that aren’t covers at all but reinterpretations of classic songs.  A 1977 ballad by the Dayton, Ohio, funk band Heatwave, or Human Nature from Thriller, or Duke Ellington’s 1970 ballet, “The River.” As Dan Ruccia claims in his great review on Dusted, this has you running to check in on the original and run comparisons. Here’s a quote about their past from that review:

… Vijay Iyer’s trio (Iyer on piano, Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums) … Over their past two albums, they’ve been crate diggers, unearthing tunes that one wouldn’t normally associate with jazz and re-contextualizing them. In fact, the core of this album is its covers — the five originals that frame the covers are wonderfully technical and dramatic, adding some context, shedding some light on the group’s thinking (overtly exploring the ideas of acceleration the title hints at), but they are ultimately supplemental.

Vijay Iyer Trio, June 25th at the 2010 Montreal Jazz Festival from Sebastien Helary on Vimeo.

And I would have to agree with that. While the rock hard-core of the album is its relationship to the covers, I also felt a strong compulsion to let them go and allow the music to overtake me. This was easier to do with the jazz covers than with the more accessible (recognizable) tunes. let me give you a taste of a comparison with an original. The stand out track for me is ‘Little Pocket Sized Deamonds’..  I can’t find cut and paste access to ‘Little Pocket Sized Demonds’ so we’ll go with ‘Human Nature’.

Here is the Quincy Jones original:

(So sorry for the #$%ing add)

And here is the Vijay Iyer recreation:

See what I mean?  Great stuff.  It was kinda great to hae a re-listen to the Micky-J version too I have to add. The track list is below and samples can be heard pretty much everywhere but you can check it out here. The Threadgill piece is followed by three originals, one of which – the title song – you can hear at the start of this review. The album is then wrapped up by a really interesting Duke Ellington piece he wrote or symphony orchestra that is filled with hymn style chords and solid blocks of adoration for the master. It’s the perfect, solid, well grounded end to a terrific album.  Iyer just thumps it out and sounds like he’s having the time of his life.

1 Bode

2 Optimism

3 Star of a Story

4 Human Nature (Trio Extension)

5 Wildflower

6 Mmmhmm

7 Little Pocket Size Demons

8 Lude

9 Accelerando

10 Actions Speak

11 Village of the Virgins