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This CD is not an invitation to destroy things. Vijay Iyer likes his trio recordings to illustrate a theme, and this one is all about the break. For Jelly Roll Morton, who famously declared, ‘Without breaks […] you can’t play jazz’, the break was a brief interval for solo improvisation. For Iyer, too, the break is ‘a span of time in which to act’, but he also extends its meaning into a broader principle of aesthetic regeneration. ‘We tend to make music out of breaks,’ he says in the CD booklet, explaining how these recent trio pieces grew out of snippets taken from earlier works for larger ensembles. You break up the old to break out the new.

Iyer, Crump and Gilmore have been working together for more than a decade and move with a rare unity of purpose. They probe the music’s secrets, its intimate intricacies, drawing the listener into a thrilling, labyrinthine shadow-world where everything is in constant flux. I love the fugitive lyricism that flits through Starlings and Geese (both derived from Iyer’s Open City project), and the shape-shifting impetus that drives Hood, Taking Flight and Break Stuff, one rhythmic impulse breaking into another. The trio swings hard every which way: South Indian Mridangam rhythm impels Mystery Woman; a version of Coltrane’s Countdown takes inspiration from West African drumming. There’s also an astute cover of Monk’s Work, and Iyer’s solo take on Billy Strayhorn’s Blood Count (his final composition), which is appropriately stark yet tender.

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