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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Asian Improv Records

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. © David R. Adler /TiVo
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CDkr125.39

Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Asian Improv Records

Vijay Iyer's 1995 debut finds the young pianist at the helm of three different ensembles: the Vijay Iyer Trio, Spirit Complex, and Poisonous Prophets. The acoustic trio, with bassist Jeff Brock and drummer Brad Hargreaves, appears on five of the nine tracks, with two of the five featuring alto saxophonist and M-Base pioneer Steve Coleman as a special guest. Spirit Complex, with trombonist George Lewis, tenor saxophonist Francis Wong, cellist Kash Killion, and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, takes over on two of the tracks, its sound considerably more abstract than the trio's. Poisonous Prophets, with guitarist Liberty Ellman, electric bassist Jeff Bilmes, and again drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, introduces a searing electric-funk sound on one track only, "Peripatetics." Iyer also goes it alone on an obliquely blues-based piece titled "Algebra." His cerebral compositional approach and advanced playing style unite all the disparate streams that the album has to offer. Iyer, the American son of Indian immigrants, identifies strongly with the Asian Improv Arts movement, which at the time of this recording was under the leadership of Francis Wong. The presence on this album of Wong, Steve Coleman, and George Lewis of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) represents a confluence of radical schools of musical thought that Iyer is at pains to discuss in his comprehensive (and beautifully written) liner notes. With both the music and the essay, one gets a strong sense of Iyer as someone with lofty goals and an exceptional intellect. © David R. Adler /TiVo