This is my second Vijay Iyer record, the other one I’ve heard was a trio record which was obviously not as full band as this one. That makes him one of the 21st century jazz artists I’m actually paying attention to, because my popular music podcast has me ignoring jazz basically altogether at the moment.
So I find it a little bit weird, sitting down to write a review of a contemporary jazz album having listened to virtually no jazz of any kind, at least attentively, in the last few years. I feel like I used to have so much more to say, but that’s not coming to me right now, as I haven’t listened to Break Stuff in forever, nor have I listened to anything that might have influenced Iyer, at least recently.
I used to go in pretty hard for free jazz. But as I get older I’ve become far more appreciative of those who can mix the avant garde with the conventional in ways that that can be appealing to those not just interested in radical music. And I must say I feel this way more and more about avant garde “rock” music too. The thing that appeals to me about this Iyer record, and Iyer’s music that I’ve heard in general, is that he walks this line – that it’s clear that he and his bandmates like some radical stuff and that they like to show off, but they also want to play melodies and they want to have fun. (Sometimes I think they might even want you to dance…) Fun is missing from so much avant garde music that every time you glimpse it, it registers.
I like the songs, I like the performances. I like the ensemble. I should pay more attention to contemporary jazz.