The best band in jazz has made the best album of the year—or of the decade. Pianist Vijay Iyer and his trio (with Stefan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums) have been making great music, alone or with others, for some time. But Accelerando is an instant jazz classic, a record that is both accessible and daring at once, both in the tradition and wholly new.
On this recording, the trio plays with an incredible degree of integration, sounding like it has fully worked out a series of ideas about how a band should deal with rhythm and dynamic interaction in today’s jazz. The music on Accelerando is immensely elastic, but it’s not loose. Rather, the band plays with a roaring, united front of sound, within which the rich tradition of jazz plays out in scintillating conversation.
Read the full JAZZ TODAY column and review here: The Vijay Iyer Trio Takes Over.
Even better is the Michael Jackson hit “Human Nature”, which starts with the recognizable piano lick and then moves to a straight melody statement that is syncopated over an idiosyncratic, interlocking pattern that finds Gilmore and Crump mixing funk rhythms with sudden gaps of silence. In the way Iyer digs into the melody (especially the second verse), there is just a bit of how The Bad Plus attacks a pop tune, but then the band moves into an improvisation that shatters all expectations.
Nothing like regular “jazz”, this finds the rhythm section deepening the way it lurches through this groove, while Iyer plays largely like a drummer, striking his right hand in staccato jabs while his left thumps in an octave pattern. And this combination of elements evolves and builds until the waves of contrasting rhythms simply can’t be any more intense. And after a brief moment of silence, the melody returns until a long slow fade allows the song to begin all over again at the piano lick. Magically, it means that the band can intensify even more greatly the second time and into a shattering, beautiful ending.
All of the music on Accelerando sways and swaggers, surges and shudders with power. It’s the sound of a style of music rediscovering its ability to move a whole body or a whole room. It’s the power of three men, playing like ten but mainly playing like one, who have a single conception that requires then to playing in very different ways, simultaneously.
It’s the best album of 2012 in jazz by the best band in jazz, no doubt. The Vijay Iyer Trio sounds like jazz history in real time, unfurling for your personal revelation.
Listen up: this is why music matters.