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Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer: Wiring

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Trio 3-alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille-is one of jazz’s tightest, most self-contained units, but the players have long shown themselves open and flexible enough to accommodate the contributions of gifted guest artists, especially pianists. This set, featuring Vijay Iyer, continues in that tradition.

Like Trio 3’s regular members, Iyer journeys “inside” and “outside” with equal facility. Warm, humorous, cryptic and declamatory in turn, he alternates unison melody lines with percussive chording before breaking into solos that dance within, above, below and parallel to the main theme; his improvisations gather energy and tension by using the silence between notes as a rhythm instrument unto itself. Lake’s tone is taut and acid-tinged, but he’s also capable of sardonic humor (as on “The Prowl,” the set’s opener) and a tenderness all the more affecting for being devoid of sentimentality (exemplified by his breathy, prayer-like murmurs in the collective improv “Rosmarie”). Cyrille is a master of unforced propulsion, texturally complex even when he’s straight-ahead, intermixing with Workman’s sinewy lines and serpentine arco moans.

Iyer’s three-part Suite for Trayvon (and Thousands More), the disc’s centerpiece, includes “Slimm,” which portrays a courageous, joyful but already cautious young man moving inexorably toward his fate; the harsh, funk/hip-hop-tinged “Fallacies,” a declamation against the injustices surrounding both his killing and its aftermath; and “Adagio,” a lament resonant with grief, anguish and barely contained militancy (Coltrane’s “Alabama” is the obvious point of reference). “Tribute to Bu,” in contrast, Cyrille’s homage to Art Blakey, is flat-out exuberance. Cyrille’s playing is less flamboyant than Blakey’s often was, but with its variegated textures and layered rhythmic juxtapositions, it’s fully in the spirit of the master.

Originally Published