Vijay Iyer Trio ‘Accelerando’ (ACT) 4/5

US born of Indian parents, pianist Vijay Iyer followed a relatively slow progression from his 1995 debut, but this has rapidly gathered pace during the early noughties and his 2009 album ‘Historicity’ introduced him to a significantly wider audience with a 2010 Down Beat critics poll prize for small ensemble and also a 2010 Grammy nomination for best instrumental jazz album. Continuing with his tried and tested trio line up of Stephen Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, Vijay Iyer has chosen another highly eclectic selection that takes in the great piano jazz tradition with music from Duke Ellington and Herbie Nicholls, the great contemporary songwriting talents of British composer Rod Temperton as well as some excellent new material from the leader himself. If anything with greater familiarity between trio members there has come a willingness to take more chances and in this respect ‘Accelerando’ is an improvement upon the already excellent ‘Historicity’. For those not yet familiar with Iyer, his style is not dissimilar to, though by no means a carbon copy of, a cross between Andrew Hill and Thelonius Monk with other influences including Ahmad Jamal, Bud Powell and the earthier sounds of New Orleans formation the Meters. For lovers of melodic jazz with a slightly bitter-sweet twist, the unique interpretation of Tepmerton’s ‘Star of a story’, originally a hit for 1970s group Heatwave, but reprised to greater effect by George Benson on the ‘Give me the night’ album, works to perfection while ‘Human nature’, a favourite in the Miles Davis mid-late 1980s repertoire receives an extended nine and a half-minute version that changes in both mood and tempo as it progresses with a harder, funk-tinged feel on electric bass from Crump towards the end. Contrast this with the more avant-garde hues of a Henry Threadgill composition on ‘Little pocket sized dreams’ and you rapidly realise that Vijay Iyer has a breadth of musical knowledge that will make it almost impossible for him to be neatly categorised into one musical bag and he is all the better for this. Of the original pieces, all of which feature his signature sounding repeat phrasings, the title track and ‘Lude’ impress in particular and the album ends on a high with a seldom heard Ellington composition, ‘The village of the virgins’, taken from the 1970 ballet ‘The river’, the river in question being the Mississpippi. Here Iyer has inventively imbued the piece with gospel and R & B flavours. In fact there is a spontaneity to the trio’s performances here that is exemplary on this release and one longs to hear them in a live context in the UK at some stage.

Tim Stenhouse