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Album Review

Vijay Iyer's first solo album is structured in three movements, not unlike a recital. It begins with four interpretations — the pop song "Human Nature," which was introduced into jazz by Miles Davis in 1985; Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy"; the standard "Darn That Dream"; and Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy." These are followed by four interlocking Iyer compositions, which are in turn succeeded by the album's third movement, a stretch that includes a version of Steve Coleman's (Iyer's former boss and mentor) "Games," another Ellington track ("Fleurette Africaine") and one final original: "One for Blount," a dedication to Sun Ra. The opening version of "Human Nature" dips into Bruce Hornsby territory in its final 90 seconds or so, and tosses in a few unnecessary fills, but otherwise it's nice enough. Iyer tackles "Epistrophy" with high-speed, Jarrett-esque streams of notes rather than the obvious, Monk-ish lurching rhythm and melodic sparseness; the melody is present, but it's buried, you've got to know it's there in advance and listen for it. "Darn That Dream" is pretty but undistinguished, while Iyer's version of "Black and Tan Fantasy" struts and strides convincingly, making the listener wish he'd approached the Monk tune in a similar fashion. The four-song suite of original material that comprises the album's middle stretch showcases other facets of Iyer's playing, including a passable Cecil Taylor impression on the rumbling "Prelude: Heartpiece" and "Autoscopy." The latter piece shifts to Philip Glass-like repetitive figures in its second half. The odds and ends that close the disc out don't resolve anything, though "Games" has a melody Iyer clearly enjoys playing; they just provide structure to the album as a whole. He can clearly make a piano do just about anything he wants it to, and Solo is a project that puts the thought that went into its construction clearly visible, but it's never breathtaking in the way a truly great solo piano performance can be.

Customer Reviews

Great to have a release like this!

While I am a huge fan of most of Vijay's ever-growing body of work, his new album, "Solo", is both a return to more traditional influence while going forward into new territory. It's been a while since he released something more "consonant" instead of his rhythmic and harmonically dissonant work and "Solo" does just that. For any Vijay Iyer fan or anyone looking for new approaches to solo jazz piano work, this is a must buy!


Born: October 26, 1971 in Albany, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Born in 1971 to parents who emigrated from India to the U.S. in the '60s, Bay Area-based composer and pianist Vijay Iyer has led several distinct combos, including Spirit Complex, the Poisonous Prophets, and the Vijay Iyer Trio. All three groups appeared on the musician's 1995 debut on Asian Improv, Memorophilia, a collection fusing jazz forms with the rhythms of South Asian music. In addition to working to create interactive software for improvised musical performance, Iyer worked frequently with...
Full Bio
Solo, Vijay Iyer
View In iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Rock
  • Released: Aug 27, 2010

Customer Ratings