Vijay Iyer explains in the cover booklet how this duo project with his “hero, friend and teacher” came about. The pianist was part of the trumpeter’s Golden Quartet for five years and the pair often became “a unit-within-the-unit, generating spontaneous duo episodes as formal links. In the process a space of possibility emerged…”
Space is a key word to appreciating this music. Both players have strong musical characters but this space seems to give them the ability to combine almost as a single voice, albeit one that simultaneously speaks through valves and keys, a metal tube and taut metal strings. And both players are so focussed and concise in their utterances that they leave a lot of space around them in the music.
The majority of the CD is taken up by the suite of the title, seven pieces named after quotes from the diaries of Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi and inspired by her abstact drawings. It starts with bright, shining trumpet notes – the piece is called All Becomes Alive – and goes through meditations like The Empty Mind Receives, Smith squeezing his tone as if to get through a tight corner, Labyrinth, which finds both players searching simultaneously for ways through, and highly evocative sections like Uncut Emeralds, Iyer sending out delicate sparkles like a mass of dripping icicles.
In addition to piano, Iyer uses subtle electronics at times to provide a rhythmic pedal note or a high drone.
A fascinating document from two extraordinary musicians united across the generations.
Categories: CD review