Fieldwork: Simulated Progress

Fieldwork’s lineup is in flux. Pianist Vijay Iyer remains, but on Simulated Progress, the trio’s sophomore effort, alto/sopranino saxophonist Steve Lehman replaces tenorist Aaron Stewart. And since this September 2004 recording, Tyshawn Sorey has succeeded Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums. But personnel changes have not diminished Fieldwork’s power and coherence.

Coproduced by Scott Harding, Simulated Progress boasts four compositions by Iyer, four by Lehman and three by Kavee. The instrumentation calls to mind Tim Berne’s Hard Cell, although Fieldwork’s material is more varied in mood and texture. Iyer’s “Headlong,” the aggressive opener, segues abruptly into Kavee’s slower “Transgression.” On Lehman’s “Trips,” Kavee feigns turntable sounds and mines a fragmented hip-hop vibe. While it’s hard not to miss Aaron Stewart’s fevered eloquence, Lehman is undoubtedly an asset, as he generates most of the album’s sonic departures-check the echo effects on Iyer’s “Infogee Dub,” the Joe McPhee-like growls on Kavee’s “Gaudi” and the sopranino flights on Iyer’s “Transitions.”

Fieldwork’s rhythmic logic can be immensely involved, but the results are disarmingly concise (just under 49 minutes total, with only three tracks exceeding five minutes). The music is also rich in paradox: dark yet uplifting, intellectually demanding yet effortlessly funky.