Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM)
Pianist Vijay Iyer’s new collaboration with the ceaselessly adventurous trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith stems from the closeness they developed when Iyer was a member of Smith’s Golden Quartet late in the late 1990s. In his notes, Iyer calls Smith his “hero, friend and teacher.” The centerpiece of their album of duets is the album’s title suite, seven movements in which the fluency of Iyer’s playing often contrasts with Smith’s pointillism, split tones and abstract musings. And yet, for all of the metaphysics of his approach, the trumpeter now and then smoothes out into the held tones of a balladist. That aspect is striking in the section called “Notes on water,” with electronic keyboard background from Iyer that is both supportive and ethereal. The album begins with Iyer’s “Passage.” It closes with Smith’s “Marian Anderson,” both imbued with power that grows out of quietness. Close listening to this music is a must. Frequent listening discloses depths and surprises.
Lars Gullin: Portrait Of the Legendary Baritone Saxophonist (Fresh Sound)
From his emergence as a baritone saxophonist, Lars Gullin (1928-1976) played a dominant role in placing Sweden second only to the United States as a force in the evolution of modern jazz. This pair of four-CD box sets contains substantial amounts of the music that Gullin recorded from 1951 to 1960 when he and Swedish jazz were flourishing. They contain his collaborations with countrymen like pianist Bengt Hallberg, alto saxophonist Arne Domnérus, trombonist Åke Persson, trumpeters Jan Allan and Rolf Ericson and clarinetist Putte Wickmann. There are also celebrated encounters with visiting Americans Lee Konitz, Zoot Sims, Conte Candoli and Frank Rosolino. Throughout, the smoothness, swing and harmonic inventiveness in Gullin’s playing demonstrate what made him a perennial poll winner on both sides of the Atlantic. These volumes provide a fair picture of the state of Swedish jazz during one of its yeastiest periods. Ray Comiskey’s comprehensive liner notes are a bonus.
More reviews to come, anon.