Vijay Iyer: Mutations (ECM/Ode)

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Vijay Iyer: Mutations VII: Kernel
Vijay Iyer: Mutations (ECM/Ode)

Pianist Vijay Iyer is not one to undersell himself and is certainly a genuinely intellectual guy but, as Elsewhere noted previously, you shouldn't let that come between you and his music.

The border between jazz and classical music has often been fairly porous, especially at the ECM label, and that's the region Iyer occupies with this collection of pieces, 10 of which are written for string quartet, piano and electronics "linked either genetically or by a kind of symbiosis" he writes in the liner note.

Two others are for piano and electronics (which he handles), and the opener is a deftly impressionistic piece Spellbound and Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells and the Shimmering Sea which previously appeared a trio piece two decades ago but now is reflective solo piano essay full of space, melodic hints which evaporate and some romantic passages.

It's lovely, but it is the 10 title-track pieces (with subtitles such as Air, Canon, Chain, Waves, Descent etc) which command the most attention.

In some places they seem to be the cheerful offspring of brightly pastoral classical works (Air) at others the moody children of the minimalist school (Chain) or the trickledown from the experiments of Brian Eno, Joachim Roedelius and others along the electronic axis (Waves).

The focus here appears to be on the inclusiveness of Iyer as a composer who brings a vast musical history to bear but who also doesn't force the issue in any dogma.

That such discrete pieces co-exist so easily -- although they may be a challenge for conservative jazz and classical ears -- is a testament to not just his compositional skills but also to how he can listen and write across that porous border. 

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