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Fieldwork: Your Life Flashes

The bassless trio of Fieldwork, which includes Vijay Iyer (piano), Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums) and Aaron Stewart (tenor sax), treads in the same waters as Greg Osby and Jason Moran. Like those two, Fieldwork’s musicians have absorbed the highly rhythmic, dryly funky style that came out of the M-Base school and have adapted it to a cutting modern acoustic jazz setting. What sets Fieldwork apart, however, is the trio’s fervent and unwavering embrace of rhythm and attack.

On Your Life Flashes, the band doesn’t really play tunes. More precisely, they spin out obtuse melodic and harmonic variations on rhythmic cells. On the opening number, “In Medias Res,” the band does sound as if it’s caught in the middle of things. That’s how just about every other selection sounds, and it doesn’t matter at which point you tune in. Often, two members of the group will slip into drone, repeating phrases over and over, as the third member breaks apart or further divides the phrase-and it doesn’t seem to matter which one does. They all take turns, and Kavee is just as likely to step forward as Iyer or Stewart.

Fieldwork maintains a dark, brooding sound throughout, due largely to Iyer’s pounding lower-octave attack. Stewart tosses in a few squeals here and there, but he largely sticks to the lower end of his horn with a sober delivery and a Coltranelike sound. The heavily rhythmic focus of Your Life Flashes can be thrilling in doses, but it tends to numb ears over the course of the CD.

Originally Published