2019 Highlight: Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, The Transitory Poems, ECM

There is an elegiac mood in this remarkable two-piano album from Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, certainly in the spread of memorialising pieces, the choice of Cecil Taylor’s words in the title, and the all-pervasive sombre mood. But instead of grim …

Published: 16 Dec 2019. Updated: 9 months.

There is an elegiac mood in this remarkable two-piano album from Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, certainly in the spread of memorialising pieces, the choice of Cecil Taylor’s words in the title, and the all-pervasive sombre mood. But instead of grim endeavour carried through in a spirit of worthiness there is an alert, spirited life force at play and a great understanding that the two demonstrate of each other’s method and ideas.

Recorded live in Budapest the live setting gives this a taut electricity and strength, all the tunes are Iyer and Taborn’s with a treat at the end reserved for Geri Allen’s ‘When Kabuya Dances’. If you want to know what the state of the art of jazz piano is look no further than this fine achievement by two masters at work.

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2019 Highlight: Dave Smith, Live at The Vortex Solo Drums + Electronics 11.11.17

Under half an hour in length yet pretty vital listening for anyone into drums, in other words and not only but also anyone into jazz at a deep level. Never mind the width feel the quality: if you think that an album ought to be 70 minutes long you …

Published: 16 Dec 2019. Updated: 9 months.

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Under half an hour in length yet pretty vital listening for anyone into drums, in other words and not only but also anyone into jazz at a deep level. Never mind the width feel the quality: if you think that an album ought to be 70 minutes long you will not be short changed it is worth adding. Dave Smith, well known on the jazz scene, for instance marlbank caught him back in 2014 with Strobes, Dan Nicholls’ group that also featured the guitar and electronics of Matt Calvert plus the pin sharp visuals of Screwgun label graphic artist Stephen Byram on the big screen behind them. The rapport between all three that time was immediate and Smith came into his own all guns blazing.

Dave Smith is also known for touring with Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s acclaimed Americana-loving globetrotters.

Live at The Vortex Solo Drums + Electronics 11.11.17 recorded during the London Jazz Festival is a different kettle of fish entirely. A solo drums album labour of love it is on one level a specialist thing but a wider audience ought to get it too. Note that the electronics do not get in the way too much, which is often a problem, they really just act as a kind of sonic ceremonial incense or put another way the radar screen on which the rhythms can be viewed spanning an ocean of sound. Antonio Sánchez in his score for Birdman which was solo drums entirely changed things in recent years because he made it plain to a non-specialist movie audience the notion that a drum solo or number of solos are valid as composition.

Live at the Vortexsimilarly tells a story; there is a certain arc to the abstraction of percussion; and a thought process at play that is most significant. Shut your eyes and listen. You will get something out of this that you have never heard before. And yet you may not be able to put that feeling into words but the feeling will exist and release vivid impressions that will remain with you, pulsing. SG