CD Review: Trio 3 + Vijay Iyer (Wiring/Intakt)

Trio 3 is alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, and the tough-to-beat rhythm section of bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Andrew Cyrille.

Pianist Vijay Iyer brings a different creative perspective to the group, and an expansive and continually searching mindset. The result is a powerful, even visionary quartet, exploring a menu of 10 originals, plus one piece by innovative composer, Curtis Clark. Lake, whom we first met as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet, is the dominant voice. His tone and technique, varying from smooth yet affirmative, as on Workman’s ballad Willow Song, to aggressive and arresting, as on his own Shave, define this session. He has the energy and courage to shout, artfully, and we are awakened and uplifted by his vibrancy and originality.

The opener, Iyer’s Prowl, seduces immediately – an upbeat cocktail that introduces us to the gravitas in the second cut, Workman’s Syanpse II. We are then exposed to Iyer’s persona, with his brilliant introductory statement on Workman’s ballad, Willow Song, reflecting both the tradition and the broader expanse of creative music. Lake then takes the melody in a bluesy direction over a wall-of-sound from the rhythm section to a fade out. A big surprise, and for me the album highlight, is Iyer’s three-part Suite for Trayvon (and thousands More).

I was expecting a Mingus-like protest, but this reflection on the tragic slaying of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, by white vigilante George Zimmerman, is bittersweet, ironic, and iconic. Slimm, the first movement, depicts the innocence of Trayvon’s walk; Fallacies brings on the menacing patrol of the armed and dangerous George Zimmerman, with the actual confrontation mirrored by drummer Cyrille and the ensemble in full creative mode, followed by the descent into the tragedy and denouement of the laconic Adagio section.

This is fabulous work – music that grows with listening because of its broad palette and subtle impact. The music is well-constructed, the improv parts played with care and conviction. The closing piece, Cyrille’s reprise of his dynamic and gorgeous Tribute to Bu (Art Blakey), sings and swings. Wow!

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