Simulated Progress

Nov 30, 2005 at 12:00 am

Vijay Iyer


Simulated Progress


Dear record execs:

Here’s a question: How many more easy-listening jazz anthologies do you guys have in the pipeline? After Jazz for a Lazy Day, Jazz for Romantic Moments, Jazz for a Summer Night, Jazz for a Mellow Morning, Jazz at Night’s End, Jazz by the Fire, Morning Cup of Jazz, Jazz at Week’s End, Jazz & The Sunday Times, Jazz at Love’s End, Jazz for the Quiet Times, Jazz for Those Peaceful Moments, Jazz for a Day in the Park, and Jazz for a Day at the Beach, etc., etc. (those are actual titles), isn’t it about time for a new series of uneasy-listening records?

The new series could have a title like Jazz for the Jitters or Jazz to Play When You’re Tired of Screaming at the Screwed-Up World — real music for our times. I’m thinking that Vol. 1 kicks off with Charlie Parker’s (still frenetic after all these years) “Koko,” continues through with things like Dave Holland-Anthony Braxton-Barry Altschul-Sam Rivers super-session Conference of the Birds, catches some of the twistified, funked bop of the M-Base collective.

And to bring it up to date for a closer, you can’t get much better than some of pianist Vijay Iyer’s recent work with the collective trio Fieldwork. Fieldwork is even more intense than Iyer’s latest disc as leader on Reimagining, a mix of solo, trio and quartet cuts. It’s a better introduction to his work, more varied, showcasing pieces that draw a listener in by building suspense and releasing it in surprising ways. There’s even an oddly off-kilter take on John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

But on its leadoff cut and often thereafter, Fieldwork — in which Iyer shares writing duties with saxophonist Steve Lehman and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee — doesn’t so much build tension as use it for the jumping-off point; the group grooves on sounding uptight and unpredictable, bound and bursting at the same time. And the bass-less piano-drums-sax format just adds to the edgy feel of the enterprise. Which makes it uncannily apt for our times.

W. Kim Heron is the managing editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].