Have the Vijay Iyer Trio back in Boston? It’s music to our ears


Vijay Iyer last performed around the corner with his new trio with superlative bassist/songwriter Linda May Han Oh and fellow MacArthur genius Tyshawn Sorey on drums in December 2019 at Oberon, Cambridge’s arts space , now closed, which the American Repertory Theater plans to bring with it to a new home in Allston.

That same month, the trio recorded “Uneasy,” which will be released a year ago this week and will top many critics’ lists for best jazz album of 2021.

We all know what happened between those two dates: the pandemic arrived and the opportunities to play live music became scarce. But the trio began touring Europe extensively late last year, and on Thursday they returned locally for a gripping and smooth gig at ICA Boston.

The trio’s recent time together seemed to heighten the musicians’ familiarity with each other without diminishing the musicians’ enthusiasm for their collaboration.

Iyer introduced his bandmates and announced that they would be playing a mix of music from “Uneasy” and new repertoire they had assembled in preparation for recording a second album next month. Then he put his face mask back on and the three got to work.

The set began with Iyer doing a slow piano prelude to Robert Honstein’s composition “Orison”, and Oh and Sorey began to weave their way into the debut album’s title track in what turned out to be a chain. almost continuous from one piece sliding into another.

Oh’s majestic and soothing bass role gave way to a busier, piano-driven section on “Uneasy,” which then culminated in “Children of Flint.” This final track, also from the first album, featured each of the musicians in turn, with Sorey sneaking in his drum solo, changing the rhythm he was playing to accompany a simple line that Iyer repeated on the piano before switching to a much stronger battery.

A brief break was followed by a new work by Iyer, “Tempest”, which then turned into a pair of covers: “Work” by Thelonious Monk (which Iyer’s previous trio with Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore recorded on 2015 album “Break Stuff”) and Geri Allen’s hypnotic “Drummer’s Song,” which the current trio featured on “Uneasy.”

Iyer paused to name “Drummer’s Song” from the piano bench and pointed out that the band had maneuvered through a series of trapdoors between songs to get there. He noted that the band began expanding their repertoire at a summer gig in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a time when people were hoping the pandemic was over.

The group then embarked on some of this new music, weaving their way through three new originals en route to a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” the effervescence of which retained the premature optimism of the band. last summer. The second half of the set ended, much like the first album, with Iyer’s song “Entrustment”. It was exhilarating to find this wonderful trio.


At ICA Boston, Thursday


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