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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CD Review: Vijay Iyer - Mutations

Vijay Iyer (piano, electronics), Miranda Cuckson (violin), Michi Wiancko (violin), Kyle Armbrust (viola) & Kivie Cahn-Lipman (cello)
(Review by Russell).
Mutations is Vijay Iyer’s first recording as a leader for ECM. The album comprises three pieces for piano and the suite Mutations 1-X scored for piano, electronics and strings. The New Yorker’s jazz affiliations are known to those with an interest in the contemporary American scene, collaborators include Roscoe Mitchell, William Parker, Matana Roberts and John Zorn. Mutations reveals another side to the pianist.
Composing for new music chamber ensembles has led to commissions and performances by the Brentano String Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra and others. Mutations was written and first performed in 2005 and it has taken until now for the work to be documented by ECM. The ten part work is framed by solo piano pieces; the first two - Spellbound and Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells and the Shimmering Sea and Vuln, Part 2 - open the album and a third and final composition - When We’re Gone - closes the recording. 
At the core of the CD is the Mutations suite. Iyer studied violin for fifteen years and states: The sound of the string quartet has been in my head for as long as I can remember. The string players work to Iyer’s notated instructions, free to interpret sections, to develop and mutate the work. Some of the compositions were written on violin, some at the piano and some on Iyer’s computer. Of the ten compositions it is difficult, if not impossible, to decide which piece was composed on either instrument or device. At times the instrumentation is such that the strings could be a laptop-generated sound, similarly electronic interventions could be the strings.
Subtle manipulation of sound sources infuse Iyer’s canvas; quiet, reflective, occasionally urgent, English pastoral, expansive New World gestures. The album is by no means a jazz recording but for those with open ears rich rewards await.
Vijay Iyer’s Mutations is available now on ECM 376 4798.        
Russell.                  

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