Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"For me, there's something special about solo piano records. When they are done right, you can really hear the inner beauty of the music and the musician - their concept of rhythm and melody, breath, art and life. On Solo, we find the gifted pianist Vijay Iyer taking his turn in this solitary proving ground, and the results are stunning. Iyer has been gaining the attention of audiences and the critical community alike. He's earned a variety of awards and accolades, including Album of the Year - for the recording Historicity(ACT) - in DownBeat's 58th Annual Critics Poll this year. More are on the way because Solo will build on that success. This is one of the best recordings of the year from one of our most exciting artists. A combination of new and old tunes, originals and covers, Solo begins with Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," a tribute to the King of Pop. It's a beautiful whirl of sound with Iyer staying true to the melody while delivering tasty basslines and chord work. Iyer's take on Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" begins with an intricate solo that weaves in and out of the melody while offering a platform for blinding, rapid-fire improvisation. The Jimmy Van Heusen/Eddie Delange chestnut "Darn That Dream," Duke Ellington's "Black & Tan Fantasy" and "Fleurette Africaine" and Steve Coleman's "Games" round out the covers on the record, beautifully demonstrating the range of Iyer's musical influences as well as playing styles. And those tunes, alone, are plenty to make this record a success. But Iyer's originals hold up nicely in the rare air of the masters. I especially enjoyed "Prelude: Heartpiece," "Patterns" and the short, boisterous closing number "One For Blount." Pull up your favorite chair, throw the headphones on and enjoy. Solois a terrific experience." -DownBeat
JazzTimes (pp.54-55) - "Of the Iyer originals, 'Autoscopy' boldly, successfully portrays an out-of-body experience."
Personnel: Vijay Iyer (piano).
Recording information: OTR Studios, Belmont, CA (05/16/2010-05/17/2010).
Photographer: Jimmy Katz.
Arranger: Vijay Iyer.
Vijay Iyer's first solo album is structured in three movements, not unlike a recital. It begins with four interpretations -- the pop song "Human Nature," which was introduced into jazz by Miles Davis in 1985; Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy"; the standard "Darn That Dream"; and Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy." These are followed by four interlocking Iyer compositions, which are in turn succeeded by the album's third movement, a stretch that includes a version of Steve Coleman's (Iyer's former boss and mentor) "Games," another Ellington track ("Fleurette Africaine") and one final original: "One for Blount," a dedication to Sun Ra. The opening version of "Human Nature" dips into Bruce Hornsby territory in its final 90 seconds or so, and tosses in a few unnecessary fills, but otherwise it's nice enough. Iyer tackles "Epistrophy" with high-speed, Jarrett-esque streams of notes rather than the obvious, Monk-ish lurching rhythm and melodic sparseness; the melody is present, but it's buried, you've got to know it's there in advance and listen for it. "Darn That Dream" is pretty but undistinguished, while Iyer's version of "Black and Tan Fantasy" struts and strides convincingly, making the listener wish he'd approached the Monk tune in a similar fashion. The four-song suite of original material that comprises the album's middle stretch showcases other facets of Iyer's playing, including a passable Cecil Taylor impression on the rumbling "Prelude: Heartpiece" and "Autoscopy." The latter piece shifts to Philip Glass-like repetitive figures in its second half. The odds and ends that close the disc out don't resolve anything, though "Games" has a melody Iyer clearly enjoys playing; they just provide structure to the album as a whole. He can clearly make a piano do just about anything he wants it to, and Solo is a project that puts the thought that went into its construction clearly visible, but it's never breathtaking in the way a truly great solo piano performance can be. ~ Phil Freeman
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