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Tyshawn Sorey: Alloy

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In addition to being a drummer able to handle the jagged musical terrain of Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman and Steve Lehman, Tyshawn Sorey continues to mature as a composer who draws equally on experimental jazz and new music. While Sorey’s Oblique – I featured a multidirectional quintet of saxophone, guitar and rhythm section, Alloy strips down to a piano trio. The busy feeling of the previous work has been reduced to, in some cases, a few notes that hang in the air to create a statement.

“Returns” begins so loosely that it feels like we’re eavesdropping on three separate warm-ups. Pianist Cory Smythe states a spare melody out of time, while Sorey and bassist Christopher Tordini tap and let quiet notes slowly decay. Five minutes in, the trio finally comes together for some free interplay, which just as quickly calms down and returns to the spare piano melody that brings some clarity to the piece. In “Template” (which originally appeared on the drummer’s That/Not), Sorey lays down a tempo that keeps shifting over a steady but equally restless piano line.

In the remaining two tracks, Sorey works with longer structures, both intriguing for different reasons. The nearly 20-minute “Movement” offers a delicate, rich piece of piano music inspired by Brahms, Debussy and Bill Evans. Its gentle, free-flowing movement sounds through-composed while maintaining a feeling of spontaneity. Conversely, “A Love Song” takes inspiration from Morton Feldman: A series of unaccompanied piano notes repeat at shifting speeds, enthralling and unsettling. When Sorey and Tordini finally appear halfway through the 30-minute piece, the bassist’s brief solo breaks the long tension, eventually leading to a slow 6/8 groove. Smythe never rises above a gentle murmur, but the anticipation finally pays off. It’s not an easy listen but it is an absorbing one.

Originally Published