Pianist Vijay Iyer composed the title track of his new trio album, “Uneasy” in 2011, in collaboration with dancer and choreographer Karol Armitage. It was still a few years before the 2016 presidential campaign, when many of the country’s old wounds and outrage erupted on public display, but they already felt some bruising.
“It was 10 years after 9/11, and for the time being in New York, the moment of relative peace of any kind felt uncertain,” he said by calling from his home in Harlem recently. “I am not only talking about the attack, but all that follows: the shock, the reaction against communities of color, the atmosphere of surveillance and fear.”
“It was Obama’s year, so there was a certain kind of exaggeration about the possibility, and also a kind of restlessness,” he said. “It was a time for the Affordable Care Act and the drone war, gay marriage, and mass deportation.” With digital surveillance becoming a fact of life, he was killed as an American-born artist of South Asian descent, with the feeling that “Americans don’t like to say freedom is what it appears to be,” he said. said.
Now another decade has passed, and the version of “Rough” in the album to be released on Friday is a mixture of heavy thinking and rich optimism, a distinctive blend in Iyer’s work. He was joined by two younger young musicians with his own great followers, Linda May Han Oh On bass and Thrift soiree On the drum. As dependents, they’ve got a few things in common: the ability to play with a kind of speed and resplendent clarity, a sort of ease of internal tension, in the style of well-schooled jazz musicians. Crucial to that balance is their ability to connect with each other in real-time, almost telepathically.
The title track appears over nine minutes, starting in a dark cloud of doubt, with Iyer’s low piano repetitions hovering around a slow, odd-metering pattern. Later, the group up – suddenly, but without completely losing their cohesion – in the charging section with a sharp, completely different rhythm, Iyer’s right hand darting in clear gestures, while Oh scolds down and Sorry. Adds action and sizzle.
The trio first came to the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in 2014, where Iyer, now 49, and Sori, now 40, serve as artistic directors. The two have been collaborating since 2001, when Sori wore Iyer to rehearsals. During a break, Sorey began carelessly noodling on the piano, and Iyer soon realized that he was playing an excerpt from Iyer’s most recent album. It was not even to the tune of the song; It was part of Iyer’s improvisation single on the recording.
Iyer said, “He was just 20 years old.” “So I already knew, like, oh, this is a celebrity genius.” (In fact, over the years, both Iyer and Sori – who is now Well known For his long-drawn compositions, such as he is for playing his drums – MacArthur has been awarded a “gifted” grant. They have also become professors of music at both Ivy League institutions.) Sorey joined the collective trio Fieldwork, with Iyer and saxophonist Steve Lehmann, and their partnership blossomed.
In 2013, Iyer took over as artistic director at Bainf – a creative enclave in Alberta, Canada, where students gather each year for a three-week improvisation workshop – and he found himself with Sauri to live with each year. Invited to attend. Eventually, they formalized their relationship as a partnership, welcoming Soirée as a co-director.
Oh, 36 years old, collaborated with both Iyer and Soori to become a regular trainer here and before in Banff. She said she appreciated the fluidity of the divide between instructors and students that the workshop received a boost. Talking on the phone from his home in Australia, Oh recalled how Iyer encouraged students to think about the notes they would play on their instrument in relation to the extent of their speaking sounds.
Playing Iyer’s compositions, he said “pretty little puzzles,” might like to work and he called Soori a perfect teammate.
“It’s a lot of fun to stretch that line between inbuilt in that structure and we can negotiate that, and negotiate that,” she said. Sorey “is totally in structure with inbuilt things, but he will create these sparks that you really don’t expect,” she continued. “It’s just a constant energetic dialogue.”
Oh, is that so There is also a knock To establish a strong foundation without sinking into a pattern. Playing together, she said, “We can be reactive and proactive at the same time.”
Iyer was easy to emphasize the importance of Sauri’s supporting style, notable for an artist Say so much On their own terms. He describes a song in the middle of a song, perhaps snorting at just one phrase, and then immediately dive into it, feeling sorry, anticipating his next move, as if to catch him. Iyer said, “Because he listens to everything, it means we can do anything.”
In an interview, Sorey stated that he has always felt “most at home in the three situations that characterize this particular trio” as being basically a creature. “
“This sense of intimacy leads to a certain type of trust where there can be no wrongdoing,” he said.
The group entered the studio in 2019, but Iyer did not pull the track recorded to an album until the following year, when the name felt “uncomfortable” even more painfully. “It was under that hellish conditions that 2020: tragedy and loss and the political battle of the century,” he said. “Then, on the other hand, an incredible rebellion fighting for justice, especially for black people and for everyone.” That is Imagining the future. “
Some of the song’s titles speak on the subject: “Children of Flint” Refers to the water crisis in Michigan; “Combat Breathing” was composed in solidarity with Black Lives Matter activists in 2014, and was presented as part of “Die-In” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But so do the sounds themselves – shrill and playful, provoking an inspirational level of unity and compassion.
When it came time to choose the cover art for the album, Iyer rejected about a dozen suggestions from the head of ECM Records, Manfred Eicher, before settling on a black-and-white double-exposure by Korean photographer Woong Dul An . This Statue of Liberty appears blurred and gray, caught between the clouds in the sky and another puff of clouds hangs over the sea.
Iyer said, “When I saw it, I didn’t know how to feel about it.” “For one thing, what does this mean for me on my album cover? What does this also represent?
In the end, he was attracted by the blurred ambition that the image conveys. “This is a distant image of the Statue of Liberty, not as a disgusting glorious symbol, but as the figure almost dismissed as such,” he said, pointing to the fact that France Had offered the statue in the United States in celebration of the statue. Chattel slavery came to an end here.
“As this symbol represents freedom in America, it is also associated with abolition,” he said. “So the fact that those concepts are tied up, I felt, is important to shed light on. They used to sit in an uneasy relationship to each other, freedom and vice versa.”