Vijay Iyer (piano) and Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax) have performed as a duo for years, but Raw Materials is their long-awaited debut on disc. The repertoire, save for the final track, “Hope,” is from a commissioned suite called “Sangha: Collaborative Fables,” with composer credits split roughly down the middle. The two cover plenty of ground but aren’t at all longwinded. Somehow their impeccable precision enhances rather than limits their improvisational freedom. Their challenging rhythmic syntax, well documented on their respective quartet discs, takes on a greater immediacy in the duo context. As Iyer solos on “Frontlash” and “Common Ground,” we hear Mahanthappa double a thorny bass line with Iyer’s left hand. More than a matter of chops, it’s a riveting musical effect.
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