by John McBeath


Album: Break Stuff
Artist:   Vijay Iyer Trio
Release Date: 2015
Label:    ECM

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US pianist Vijay Iyer’s trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore has been working together for eleven years and their musical symbiosis shows in this twelve track album featuring eight of Iyer’s originals. It’s the third release with various groups in just 11 months by the multi-award winning Iyer since moving to the ECM label.

Explaining the title he says, ‘A break in music is still music: a span of time in which to act.’ And there’s plenty of action in the title track, from the piano’s quick rippling beginning pushed by Gilmore’s first beat of four emphasis to amplify Iyer’s chord jabs. After this hectic passage the tempo slows for Crump’s lyrical bass solo and the piano rolls serenely forward to then gather pace and return to the original fast thematic style – a break back.

One of four non-originals is Work by Thelonius Monk, one of Iyer’s all-time heroes, and without a hint of emulation he achieves both a saluting recognition and a swinging trio interpretation. Billy Strayhorn’s final composition Blood Count, a deeply moving ballad, is beautifully interpreted by Iyer enlarging the minor harmonies and drifting expressively through its melancholy mood. Gilmore’s inspired drum solo, and his work throughout Coltrane’s Countdown are essential contributions to the piano’s speeding rendition and blast-off solo.

This collection is a galvanizing illustration of contemporary jazz ideas by a piano trio of virtuosic ability and an almost telekinetic integration of each other’s performance and direction

For just over 24 years I have been a freelance writer, publishing in that time a wide variety of genres: news items, live concert reviews, travel articles, features, personality profiles, and CD and book reviews. I have written for various in-flight magazines, The Adelaide Review, The Republican, The Bulletin, The Australian, The Advertiser, The Melbourne Herald Sun and several regional newspapers. In 1994 I won a national travel-writing prize sponsored by The Australian newspaper, which led to my writing regularly for that paper. Since 2003 I have been jazz critic for The Advertiser and The Australian newspapers, on average contributing weekly to each paper. In 2005 I won a national Jazz Writing Competition sponsored by the Wangaratta Jazz Festival.