The jazz pianist Vijay Iyer of Indian descent, born in Rochester, can look back on as many as twenty-three albums he has recorded in the last twenty years. On these albums, he confidently moved between funk, swing, hard bop and avant-garde. All these disciplines, he lives out focused on avant-garde on his new album "Far From Over" in a sextet, for which in addition to his cheese rhythm group with Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Stephan Crump on bass, Graham Haynes on the flugelhorn and cornet, the alto saxophonist Steve Lehman, the tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, each a star in the scene, could be won over.
"Poles". This title runs loud. Very loud and bursting with energy. Saxophone cascades are thrown into the air. The piano and then the Rhodes keyboards see themselves primarily as part of the percussion. For a brief time, the sonorously sounding flugelhorn brings calm into the cleverly controlled chaos. The fantastic drums confidently hold together the easily evolving wild chase.
"Far From Over". A true big-band sound develops after a short rhythmic call through the piano. Restlessness is the soul of the title, driven by refined improvisation. Splendid solos of the saxophones, the flugelhorn and the piano spice up the title and lead into a splendid brass choir. And again, it gets loud. Very loud up to a never-ending piano chord.
"Nope." Calm. Finally, real calm. Measured, the Rhodes keyboards walk along confidently. The relaxed style pretends, even when the brass chords join in. Now it gets louder. However, civilized. For the circumstances of the sextet running out loud in the two preceding titles, everything here runs at very civilian volume, rhythmically refined.
"End Of The Tunnel". In this short title, Graham Haynes can alienate the sound of his flugelhorn with electroacoustic tricks to the point of being unrecognizable. The artificially thinned-out sound just disappearing in the mystical Urnebel, the fun is already over.
"Down To The Wire". At civilian volume, the piano gets involved into a wild hunt through the scales of the keyboard instrument. The volume increases considerably and rapidly reaches the pain threshold when the tenor saxophone joins the hunt. It gets wilder and ever wilder. Finally, the tenor saxophone screams, motivating the tenor saxophone and the flugelhorn (or the cornet) to join the hunting party until the drums ring in the sudden end of the wild hunt with a great solo.
"For Amiri Baraka", the piano accompanied by bass and drums, starts completely relaxed with a calm, almost conservatively built-up song. In the middle of the title it gets inevitably loud until the piano prepares the quietly ending closing of the title.
"Into Action". Nomen est omen. In a hackneyed movement, we helter-skelter arrive at quieter fields with a marvelously improvised long, harmonious (!) piano / flugelhorn passage. After a short, strong brass blowing at full bore, the piano directs the title into a quiet field, accompanied by gentle, measured harmonious brass chords to the peaceful ending.
"Wake". Dissolving in its own echo, we hear the wake-up call of the cornet. A pastoral atmosphere like at the Koenigssee occurs when the alphorns listen themselves to their reflected echo. Somewhere in the haze of the echo, the sound of the piano floats unreally. Rather wacky.
"Good On The Ground" brings the Sextet back to down-to-earth big-band sound. This is getting loud again. The drums provide powerful drive. Hectic pace changes with a quiet pace. An extra strong commitment of the piano and a potent drum solo are to be admired. Out of full sextet commitment the title suddenly comes to an end.
"Threnody". Just as if Iyer and his men wanted to counteract the predominantly wild, sometimes bizarre course of the previous titles, this title starts with a quietly moving song of the piano. It does not, however, remain soft. It will gradually reach the loudness level characteristic of this album. The tenor saxophone contributes decisively to this and the piano follows rather relieved. Finally, the full brass choir intones and brings the title loudly to the pain threshold. Instead of an abrupt termination at the maximum loudness, the piano, borne by the drums, allows the title to quietly quit in conciliatory quietness.
After this massive tour de force through the wildly rugged landscape of the album, a walk into the forest is recommended to reset the hearing to zero. Otherwise, no damage is to be feared "Far From Over". On the contrary. If you devote to this album, you will learn for a whole hour a lot about the performance of the jazz avant-garde, about the fact that this kind of jazz can be varied, exciting and even thrilling in the hands of improvisation-assured, imaginative musicians. "Far from Over" is in the truest sense of the word a strong piece of jazz. May the album not be a one-day fly in this sextet-occupation, but motivate ECM to produce further albums.
Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes
Graham Haynes, cornet, flugelhorn, electronics
Steve Lehman, alto saxophone
Mark Shim, tenor saxophone
Stephan Crump, double-bass
Tyshawn Sorey, drums