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March 7 , 2014

Reviews of the week

More international reactions to Vijay Iyer’s ECM debut Mutations

Pianist Vijay Iyer has been a singular figure in American music for at least the past decade, and he extends and deepens his expressive range with ‘Mutations’, his exceptional first album as bandleader on the ECM label. To say that Iyer produces extraordinarily subtle colors in works for solo piano, piano and electronics, and piano with string quartet understates the lustrous beauty of this music. [..] Iyer has constructed gripping sonic portraits that are at once provocative and accessible, intellectually substantive and sensuously attractive. Moreover, this music stands as practically the antithesis of the galvanic pianism for which Iyer is best known, ‘Mutations’ showing a delicate, shimmering, translucent side of his playing.
Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

‚Mutations’ is Grammy-nominated pianist Vijay Iyer’s first album as a leader for ECM, and it’s fittingly special. It’s a setting for his piano and a string quartet driven by both his mathematical fascination with patterns, the free-spiritedness that lets piano-improv pull the strings where it will, and his experience of chamber-ensembles as a former violinist. [...] with circling figures from which longer cello notes depart; rising unbroken chords from which strings-voices struggle to escape; seesawing ensemble figures provided by spontaneous piano lines; throbbing themes with handclappy accents; sawing, unrushing all-in sections and a conclusion in rich piano chords and fragile treble melodies. It’s thoughtful, typically original, and unexpectedly very exciting.
John Fordham, The Guardian

The music on ‘Mutations’ is ruminative and compelling. The recording shifts seamlessly from austere but elegant solo-piano segments to furious moments where the strings create a swirl of sound around dark staccato keyboard figures. The dynamic diversity of the record is part of its interest.
Martin Johnson, The Wall Street Journal

Mit Hilfe von Produzent Manfred Eicher begibt sich Vijay Iyer nun auf eine Reise, weit weg von bisherigen Erwartungshaltungen, weit weg vom Jazz, selbst von dessen moderner Ausprägung, in ein zauberhaftes Niemandsland aus zeitgenössischer Klassik und Ambient, in reine Biosphäre aus multiplen Harmonien, übereinandergelegten Stimmen, hypnotischen Tempi, ausbalancierten Mobiles und tanzenden Obertönen. Ein Schritt weit hinaus. In die Zukunft.
Reinhard Köchl, Jazzthetik

As a recording, it is certainly among his most provocative. There are no traces of his Hindustani or Carnatic jazz explorations, his athletic post-bop or modal works, or even his explosive readings of modern pop. This is a showcase for Iyer the composer. Even the set opener, a solo piano reading of ‘Spellbound and Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells and the Shimmering Sea,’ which appeared on Memorophilia – his 1995 debut--showcases its harmonic subtleties and formal construction over improvisation – though it's certainly there. The album's title is actually a ten-part suite for piano, string quartet, and electronics originally composed and premiered in 2005; it has been evolving ever since. The string quartet was specially assembled for this date.[…] Each of these sections undergoes a mutation, as notation – with the interaction of the players – begin to shift and change with the introduction of an inconstancy or interruptive figure in a recurrent theme. Samples of the players are also introduced to alter themes and create altering textural and dynamic factors. The piano is one such element, and improvisation – especially in ‘Mutations VII: Kernel’ – is another.[...] Despite the possibility for chaos and obstructive dissonance, Mutations is aesthetically beautiful. Throughout, articulated fragments and melodies interact in rhythmic and open frames, counterpoint, and harmony, even as they converse, gradually exchanging one flow of thought for another. In ‘Mutation III: Canon’ the ghosts of Beethoven, Bartók, Stravinsky, Carter, Strayhorn, and Evans visit, though fluid spontaneity reigns overall. As the individual movements evolve, so does the overall structure of the work, arriving at ‘Mutations X: Time,’ the elastic of all philosophical and scientific constructs as the slippery undercurrent of rhythms suggest. ‘Vuln, Pt. 2’ and ‘When We're Gone’ are recent works for piano and electronics. The primary instrument engages in counterpoint and exchange with synthetic textures and rhythms. They stand out from the central work, but don't distract from its impact and feel more like extensions of it. Along with this keen compositional attributes, Mutations rewards with well-considered, inspired performances. Whether fans of Iyer's jazz work will follow him here remains to be seen. That said, whether or not they do doesn't diminish the artist's considerable achievement.
Thom Jurek, Allmusic.com


Le Vent, the new album by the Colin Vallon Trio, is reviewed in Swiss daily Le Temps

Une musique qui colore l’instant [...] Le Vent est une descente en eaux profondes, certes, mais comme agitée de phosphorences. [...] Le Vent bruisse doc avec moinds de clinquant, d’audace juvénile, que le précédent Rruga. Mais sa densité produit un effet dont ne pretend conscience que plus tard. Il impose son calme menaçant.
Robert Arnaud, Le Temps


German monthly Stereo grants One Is The Other by the Billy Hart Quartet a five-star review

Was sich bereits auf dem Vorgänger andeutete, erreicht nun auf ‘One Is The Other’ ein höheres Level. Bis auf den Standard ‚Some Enchanted Evening’ stammen alle Themen von der Band, die sich zu einer komplexen Einheit ergänzt. Bereits nach wenigen Takten des ersten Titels entfaltet sich die gewachsene Gruppendynamik. Nach dem coolen, in dunkle Töne geformten Piano-Intro von ‚Lennie Groove’ besticht Mark Turner mit fantasievollen Chorussen, die auch in den oberen Registern seines Instruments nichts von ihrer Flexibilität einbüßen. Wie virtuos Billy Hart sein Drum-Set für die Kreation subtiler Beats einsetzt, wird speziell in seiner Komposition ‚Amesthyst’ veranschaulicht. Die Idylle, die das Thema ausstrahlt, wird durch Harts Polyrhythmen kontrastiert. Für kurze Momente nähern sich der Saxofonist und der Pianist den verheißungsvollen Regionen des Free Jazz, um in den nachfolgenden Improvisationen noch engagierter ihre Vorstellung von aktuellem Modern Jazz zu realisieren.
Gerd Filtgen, Stereo


Extended Circle, the new recording by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet, gets acclaim from German music magazine Jazzthetik

Es mutet an wie Jazz, schon allein aufgrund der Tatsache, dass die Kombination Piano-Bass-Schlagzeug-Saxofon eine klassische Jazz-Besetzung ist. Einige Stücke beruhen auch auf völlig freien Improvisationen. Doch Gustavsens individuelles Bekenntnis zwischen Wahrheitssuche und Dienst an der Schönheit geht weit über jeden Jazz-Kanon hinaus. […] Die Einheit von Sinn und Form, die in der Postmoderne tatsächlich zu großen Teilen verloren gegangen zu sein scheint, wird in Tord Gustavsens eher postromantischen Klangexegesen wieder hergestellt. Die vier Norweger stecken voller Hingabe und Inbrunst, hinter der sie sich selbst mit ihren spielerischen Ambitionen weit zurücknehmen können.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik