For many years now you could have confined your jazz and exploratory music CD acquisitions to releases by Americans Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith. You would have still found your CD shelves groaning under the weight of variety, depth and unbridled invention.
Both Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith are among the foremost of talented American musicians who have developed and individualistic, difficult-to-classify personal genre. Here, on their latest CD, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke roots in and branches of jazz often surface, but there is so much else going on: Iyer and Smith skilfully and imaginatively and (by-and-large) subtly mix elements of jazz, electronics, contemporary composition, free improvisation and minimalism and the occasional nod to noise music. The centrepiece is the 7-part suite ‘A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke’, a largely improvised piece that develops from beguiling, elegant melodies and showcases Vijay Iyer’s and Wadada Leo Smith’s ways with arresting textures and colours. This sonic creation stimulates mental pictures of a mysterious narrative evoking the work of the painter Edward Hopper or the director David Lynch, yet they are always distinctively part os Iyer’s and Smith’s unique sound world.
To complement the crisp clarity of the sound Iyer and Smith have sown carefully constructed parts of the suite bookended with what seems like an entrance into this sound world ‘Passage’ and the homage to one of the greatest contraltos and exponents of the spiritual and common song – Marian Anderson – in an ethereally beautiful song of the same name. Here too, as well as throughout the disc, carefully constructed pieces with sections of Wadada Leo Smith’s magisterial trumpet weaving its way through Vijay Iyer’s ghostly pianistic whispers, both improvising when they have to and playing through composed pieces at other times.
As a studio production this work, heralded by Manfred Eicher’s signature production via ECM’s quintessential sound, this music works brilliantly. It would be fascinating to hear how it translates when the musicians take the set on the road.
Track List: Passage; (A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke – Suite [2-7]) All Becomes Alive; The Empty Mind Receives; Labyrinths; A Divine Courage; Uncut Emeralds; A Cold Fire; Notes On Water; Marian Anderson.
Personnel: Vijay Iyer: piano, Fender Rhodes piano, electronics; Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet.
Release date: April 2016
Running time: 1:02:36
Buy album on: amazon