Vijay Iyer Trio, Accelerando

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to the Vijay Iyer trio's new CD, Accelerando (on the ACT label), and I've listened to at least a few tracks of it almost every day since. This is a stunningly good album: monastically intricate, but also a rousing head-shaker, it's even danceable, I give it a 96.

I must confess that I hadn't warmed much to Iyer until this album. His music has struck me as overly schematic, perhaps the result of his training in theoretical physics and math: the concepts are intriguing; the delivery, a bit stiff.

But this one is very different. His ideas boil and simmer with no less intensity, but he's latched them to solid rhythms, and his triomates—Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore—have glommed on to a groove.

Maybe it's because they've been spending more time with one another on the bandstand; since the success of their last album, Historicity, their touring calendar has filled up. Or maybe it's that the album's avowed dance theme ("Music is action: the sound of bodies in motion," Iyer writes in the liner notes) has focused his attention on rhythm. (The same thing happened with John Hollenbeck, whose big-band music I'd previously admired more than enjoyed, with his album Shut Up and Dance!.)

But don't get the wrong idea; this is not dumbed-down "dance music" in the usual sense of the phrase. You'll notice that I wrote "solid rhythms"—as in more than one—and Iyer & Co. dart and weave through the polyrhythms with a riveting verve, a restless drive, and, most surprising, a lilting lyricism that shines through the turbulence when he wants it to.

Most of the 11 tracks are composed by Iyer, but there are also gorgeous, really transfixing covers of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," Heatwave's "The Star of a Story," and Duke Ellington's "the Village of the Virgins."

The session was recorded at Sear Sound by Chris Allen. The bass is a little recessed, the drums have that digital swish (I'd like to hear the ride cymbal ring and the bass drum boom once in a while), but it doesn't distract much from the music, and the piano sounds fine.

jrmandude's picture


Your thumbs-up will likely lead me to get it.  I heard a song from, and it and your words make me think of The Bad Plus.  Are we seeing a new thing that harkens back to the age when jazz meant bootie shakin?  That would be cool.

Justin.G's picture

It is interesting to see how well you put together your reviews. Your honesty really makes us want to try this out to see if we will agree with you or not. Thank you for making it so transparent.



It is always good to read real top 100 reviews that tell the truth and are not just for or against something, which may lead us to believe that the review would be fake.