Vijay Iyer Trio’s Accelerando arrives
today, 3/13

The Indian American jazz pianist’s first release since his Grammy-nominated Historicity reached the top of the charts in 2009 hits stores and on line retailers with a crush of new praise.

Add this writer to that number. When I first listened to Accelerando, its denseness and the deeply complicit interplay between Iyer, his bassist Stephen Crump and the drummer Marcus Gilmore struck me like a spiraling arpeggio. Repeated listenings exposed depth and feeling making this one of the most important releases of the new year.

Consider the third cut, “The Star of the Story.” It begins with an implied groove over a repeating piano figure. Your ear wants to know—where is this song going? Piano chords ring, single notes plink, the bass drives the beat and the drums march in step. Then the repeating figure changes, Crump briefly bows his bass and the song begins to intensify.

About four minutes in, the song shifts again and appears to resolve. But in the background, the repeating piano figure slips in and back out again. The song fades out leaving the listener with those beautiful notes ringing like an endless loop. I mean that in a good way even though the song never actually resolves.

When I listen to new music, I don’t look at the liner notes or even the names of the songs, I just try to absorb it without any other influences. So when the next cut begins with a gentle touch on the keys followed by a simple bass line I am instantly calmed from the perpetual storm and lack of resolution of the previous tune. But in less than a minute a very familiar chord pops up. I know this song! It’s Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” The trio’s version brings out the inherent humanity in the tune and its placement at this point on the album couldn’t be better.

Another standout cut is Henry Threadgill’s “Little Pocket Size Demons.” I can’t say that I know the original but within a few moments into the tune I am reaching to find out the name of the song. It strikes me as similar to the music of the saxophonist John Ellis and his project Double Wide because I hear the image of a surrealistic carnival. The song title sums of the music perfectly. Imagine my surprise when I check out the press material later and read this quote from Iyer, “the original has this carnival vibe—polyphonic and surreal.”

This album is not easy listening and it won’t work as background music. The denseness that I detected on first listen doesn’t go away. But as you become more familiar with the tunes, a deep sensory interplay between the musicians reveals a powerful group of players feeding off of compelling material creating a truly beautiful sound.

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