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Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (Pi)

Michael J. West's review of album by creative drummer in a trio setting

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Tyshawn Sorey album Verisimilitude on Pi
Tyshawn Sorey album Verisimilitude on Pi

Let no one think that Tyshawn Sorey’s use of a piano-bass-drums trio on Verisimilitude, his sixth album (and one of his strongest), brings it closer to the conventions of jazz or anything else. Drummer-composer Sorey remains as determinedly unique as ever, playing a quiet music that develops gradually and draws at least as much from modern classical music as from avant-garde jazz and creative music. It merely employs more familiar instrumentation to do so this time.

Actually, there are some moments that flirt with convention. The opening track, “Cascade in Slow Motion,” finds pianist Cory Smythe playing a spare, inquiring melody (and a solo that closely follows that melody) with regular accents from bassist Christopher Tordini (who switches to bow just before the piece’s end) and loose, brushed drums from Sorey. Likewise, the half-hour “Algid November” captures a few scattered, serendipitous occasions of the three (freeform) swinging together.

Otherwise, Verisimilitude reflects a cross between experimental improv and contemporary chamber music. Those two tributaries aren’t easy to distinguish. On “Flowers for Prashant,” almost entirely a solo feature for Smythe, the pianist’s left hand concentrates on a march-like figure both moody and peaceful. His right plays a somber melody that stays close to the left, though it occasionally raises an octave or gives a chord crash, and it’s impossible to say what Sorey did and didn’t write. This is even more true of “Obsidian,” where Smythe dabbles in toy piano and Tordini envelops everyone in electronic hazes. And the meditative “Contemplating Tranquility,” with its quiet, chromatic shapelessness but occasional synergies, might be through-composed, wholly improvised, or anywhere in between.

Regardless, Sorey’s genius comes through sounding as fresh and insightful as ever. The Pulitzer Prize committee that has honored both Ornette Coleman and Henry Threadgill in the past decade might want to get their ears on Verisimilitude.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Verisimilitude by Tyshwan Sorey on iTunes.

Originally Published