Album review: Vijay Iyer Trio's 'Accelerando'
What happens when a jazz piano trio releases a dance record in 2012? Before any seizure-inducing thoughts of a Swizz Beatz-produced take on "Body and Soul" come to life, listen to pianist Vijay Iyer's modern vision of jazz's body-moving roots. A head-bobbing step forward for a trio that topped year-end lists with 2009's "Historicity," "Accelerando" is a rambunctious yet nimble celebration of the groove that turns as much on the fulcrum of drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Stephan Crump as it does on Iyer’s restlessly inventive piano.
After setting the album’s tone with the rhythmic rush of "Optimism" and its rumbling lead-in, "Bode," a stuttering beat from Gilmore anchors a dive into '70s funk with a cover of Heatwave’s "The Star of a Story," which sharpens the original’s sultry creep with an anthemic piano lead from Iyer. After covering M.I.A. on "Historicity," Iyer ventures deeper into indie music’s territory with a blown-out take on Flying Lotus' "Mmmhmm." Expanding on the original's atmospheric, minute-long gesture drawing, the trio conjures the spirit of Stephen Ellison's cosmic beat alchemy with Crump's sawing bass groove and a pillowy locomotive beat from Gilmore, whose grandfather is jazz drumming great Roy Haynes.
Slightly more conventional source material such as Herbie Nichols and Duke Ellington flex the trio's ability to swing inside jazz's firmament, and bent originals such as the pulsating "Actions Speak" and the knotted-up avalanche of the title track keep the album's propulsive spirit intact. The fitful drum machine at the song's intro may be a red herring, but Iyer's commitment to forward motion certainly isn't.
-- Chris Barton
Vijay Iyer Trio
Four stars (out of four)