The Transitory Poems

Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn

EN / DE
Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, two of creative music’s most resourceful players, learned to meld and mesh their artistic approaches inside Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory ensemble (as documented on Mitchell’s 2007 recording Far Side). Since then, Iyer and Taborn have continued to play concerts together. The Transitory Poems, recorded live at the Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest, in March 2018, is their first duo album. A marvel of shared invention, it incorporates pieces offered as tributes to formative influences including pianists Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams and Geri Allen, and the painter and sculptor Jack Whitten.
Vijay Iyer und Craig Taborn, zwei der einfallsreichsten Musiker der heutigen kreativen Musik, lernten, ihre künstlerischen Ansätze in Roscoe Mitchells Note Factory Ensemble zu verschmelzen und zu vernetzen (wie auf Mitchells 2007er Aufnahme Far Side zu hören ist). Seitdem haben Iyer und Taborn immer wieder gemeinsam Konzerte gegeben. The Transitory Poems, im März 2018 in der Franz-Liszt-Akademie, Budapest, live aufgenommen, ist ihr erstes Duoalbum.
Ein Feuerwerk aus gemeinsamen Erfindungen, enthält es Stücke, die als Hommage an prägende Einflüsse angeboten werden, etwa an die Pianisten Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams und Geri Allen sowie den Maler und Bildhauer Jack Whitten.
Featured Artists Recorded

March 2018, Liszt Academy, Grand Hall, Budapest

Original Release Date

15.03.2019

  • 1Life Line (Seven Tensions)
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    13:02
  • 2Sensorium
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    04:17
  • 3Kairòs
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    08:56
  • 4S.H.A.R.D.S.
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    09:11
  • 5Shake Down
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    06:40
  • 6Clear Monolith
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    10:46
  • 7Luminous Brew
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer)
    08:17
  • 8Meshwork / Libation / When Kabuya Dances
    (Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer, Geri Allen)
    12:48
The crystalline scatter of Taborn’s playing meets Iyer’s slightly thicker articulation in a sympathetic repartee; the pair seem to constantly divert their own path.
Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times
 
Es gibt hier elegische Anfänge, balladeske Intros; es gibt witzige Pingpongs, impressionistische Tableaus, aber auch hochenergetische Klanggewitter auf den kairotischen Gipfeln der dynamischen Architektur, in denen sich beide induktiv mit Energie aufladen. Aber jedes Fortissimo hat in diesem extrem spannenden, hoch gespannten Diskurs seinen dramatischen, seinen dramaturgischen Sinn. Große Musik. An der man als Hörer mit jedem Anhören wächst.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
 
Instant composing, spontaneous arrangements, a gorgeous fluidity of ideas mutating in the moment with an enchanting and lovely spaciousness. […] ‘The Transitory Poems’ sounds like two artists colluding in a search for solutions to beautiful mysteries, completely in the moment. That there are no solutions is beside the point. It is the search, the journey that counts. […] ‘The Transitory Poems’ plays out as a brilliant and flawless work of art.
Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz
 
The two-piano tradition in jazz has a relatively scant recorded history. There have, of course, been memorable contributions—but the Iyer-Taborn mind meld sets a high standard for future entries in the canon.
Matthew Kassel, Pitchfork
 
With one hundred and seventy-six keys and a Budapest music stage between them the pair crafts a performance that balances galvanizing individualism with verdant conversation. The ECM-engineered sound is a boon to the listening experience with every gesture and nuance audible and thankfully largely free of post-production enhancement.
Derek Taylor, Dusted
 
The energy, ideas, and instinctive musicality of Iyer and Taborn are full of surprises, canny camaraderie, deft techniques, understatement, and symbiotic difference; they combine to add immeasurably to the all-too-slim catalog of duo albums in the jazz piano tradition.
Thom Jurek, All Music
 
The opener, ‘Life Line (seven tensions)’ is 13 minutes of listening to two masters finish each other’s sentences and it’s eerie how they can cut loose around each other’s leads and find the way back in time and time again. Other tracks, such as the soft and tender Luminous Brew or Kairos, are like children exploring a keyboard and miraculously hitting upon something deeply musical. They float in space, random and, well, transitory. A very special album for piano fans.
Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Sun
 
Die Kraft dieses Mitschnitts ist beachtlich. Wenn Iyer und Taborn spielen, wird aus Zwei Eins. Sie bleiben in ihrem Spiel unverkennbar, verschmelzen sich gleichzeitig zu etwas Neuem – egal, ob in Slow Motion-Passagen wie etwa in ‚Kairos‘ oder in halsbrecherischem Tempo wie in ‚Shake Down‘. Iyer und Taborn schaffen hier Großes und vermitteln bei allem Anspruch vor allem eines: Hunger auf Neues.
Sebastian Meißner, Sounds and Books
 
There is an elegiac mood in this remarkable two-piano album from Iyer and Taborn, certainly in the spread of memorializing pieces, the choice of Cecil Taylor’s words in the title, and the all-pervasive sombre mood. But instead of grim endeavour carried through in a spirit of worthiness there is an alert, spirited life force at play and a great understanding that the two demonstrate of each other’s method and ideas. Recorded live in Budapest the live setting gives this a taut electricity and strength, all the tunes are Iyer and Taborn’s with a treat at the end reserved for Geri Allen’s ‘When Kabuya Dances’. If you want to know what the state of the art of jazz piano is look no further than this fine achievement by two masters at work.
Stephen Graham, Marlbank
 
Wo endet die Komposition? Wo beginnt die Improvisation? Spielen Vijay Iyer und Craig Taborn Jazz? Oder improvisierte Kammermusik? Das Duett der Pianisten, aufgenommen am 12. März 2018 in der Franz Liszt Akademie in Budapest, wirft Fragen auf. Und es verblüfft durch seine Intensität und Dichte, durch einen inneren Übereinklang, der sich in den dichtesten Tontrauben und flirrenden Höhenflügen ebenso selbstverständlich einstellt wie in den leisen, vorsichtig tastenden Passagen. […] 74 Minuten lang klingen keine Jazzstandards oder jazztypische Motivbearbeitungen an. Stattdessen kosten Iyer und Taborn den Kontrast von Motiven oder auch nur Grundideen aus, indem sie diese mit überlegten Konzepten, wachen Ohren und flinken Gedanken brillant ineinander verflechten. Über die vollen 74 Minuten vermeiden sie die jazzübliche Trennung in einen führenden Musiker und dessen Begleiter – auch eine Besonderheit. So sperrig die Musik auch ist: Es lohnt sich, das Album mehrmals zu hören und sich eine Schicht nach der anderen zu erschließen.
Werner Stiefele, Rondo
 
Iyer and Taborn did not approach this concert as brand name jazz pianists, ready to set each other in contrast, playing their hits. For most of this program, all but the biggest aficionados will be hard-pressed to say which pianist is which—and that seems by design. They work very much together, creating a seamless flow of musical development. On something like ‘Luminous Brew’, they cooperate in assembling an atmosphere of trembling tension. One is high, one is low, out of each other's way but close in purpose, and then lines from each intersect and twist around each other. On ‘Shake Down’ there is a distinct melodic line created at the start that persists and is passed back and forth between the pianists as they seem to careen down the rapids of the performance, but it sounds very much like a jazz improvisation that is following the top rule of improv comedy: always say ‘yes’. The two players are in a lively agreement throughout. […] We get to hear a bit of a negotiation between two leading pianists, both expert improvisers whose ideas about this music matter in 2019. ECM is there again, in the room where it happens, as some adventurous conversation is taking place. The results are fascinating if not an instant classic.
Will Layman, Popmatters
 
The two men are longtime friends and kindred spirits who played in Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory band together, and they’re very much working together here, one man laying down a surface over which the other dances. ‘Sensorium’ begins with delicate trickles of notes, occasionally punctuated by a speedy, almost Taylor-esque rumble. Eventually it becomes a kind of shimmering cloud, with the two men combining their energies to create something that’s like what either one of them might play alone, just with more notes.
Phil Freeman, Stereogum
 
Der Titel des Live-Albums ‚The Transitory Poems‘ betont das Werden und Vergehen, und tatsächlich gewinnt man beim Zuhören mitunter den Eindruck, ganze Landschaften beim Entstehen zu beobachten. Manchmal dienen Patterns wie eine geisterhafte Walking Bassline als Vorgabe, oft arbeiten sich die beiden, nun ja, tastend voran, um Verdichtungen von beachtlicher Wucht zu erzeugen oder überraschende melodische Momente hervorzuzaubern.
Klaus Nüchtern, Falter
 
This improvised meeting between two of the most inventive pianists of this generation captures them at their unfettered and expressive best. Though both pianists differ stylistically in their own recent output, the album more often sounds like the results of some four-handed singular being as their explorations pay tribute to departed keyboard masters in Geri Allen, Muhal Richard Abrams and Cecil Taylor. It’s not always easy listening as both artists freely explore and answer the themes that are uncovered, but it’s reliably an inspiring one.
Chris Barton, L.A. Times
 
Wer markante Block-Akkorde setzt und wer sie mit perlenden Läufen auffüllt, bleibt offen – als akademische Frage für analytische Hörer. Die vermutlich ein Vergnügen daran finden, etwa im Muhal Richard Abrams gewidmeten ‚Clear Monolith‘ dessen Spurenelemente zu entdecken. Natürlich kann man aber auch schlicht dem luziden Zauber der leichthändig dargebotenen Ton-Gedichte lauschen, dabei delikate Momente wie etwa kunstvoll gesetzte Triller genießen und in dem organisch fließenden, selten aufbrodelnden, jedoch im Detail anspruchsvollen Wohlklang entrückt schwelgen. Was ein hochspannend beflügeltes Erlebnis ist.
Sven Thielmann, Fono Forum
 
The eight improvised piano duets on this compelling CD capture Vijay Iyer’s light-touch modernism bonding with Craig Taborn’s percussive thrust at a March 2018 concert at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy of Music. The performance brings the contrasting touches and tones vividly to life in a programme of mischievous scampers, agitational rumbles and soothing contemplations.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
 
Zwei Klaviere sind eine delikate Sache, der Klang muss durchsichtig bleiben, zudem darf der individuelle Charakter der Pianisten nicht verschwinden. Iyer und Taborn lösen das großartig, ihr Spiel bleibt immer transparent, nie wird der Hörer erschlagen von der schieren Wucht der zwei Flügel. Im Diskurs setzen sie Klangblöcke gegen filigrane Linien und kosten flirrend und nervös die komplette Tastatur ihrer Instrumente aus. Das Gleichgewicht zwischen ausnotiert-komponiert und freiem Spiel zerfließt.
Angela Ballhorn, Jazzthetik
 
The ability of both protagonists can naturally be taken as read, but what’s remarkable is the way in which they deploy every imaginable strategy in this set of what must be largely improvised pieces. There’s co-operation and confrontation, unity and conflict, subtle transitions and headlong interventions, but no sense of contrivance; the music just flows from one state to another with a mixture of energy and grace that both defines and transcends this genre known as ‘jazz’.
Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine
 
Die Gelassenheit, die man von beiden Pianisten kennt, ist hier eher der Gemessenheit einer klassischen Aufführung gewichen […] Bei Iyer und Taborn hat man das Gefühl, die bauen ohne Unterlass an der Architektur, in der diese Musik stattfindet. Es spielt weniger eine Rolle, was ihre Hände konkret auf der Tastatur machen und wie unterschiedlich ihr Anschlag ist. Worauf es ankommt, sind die Denksysteme beider Musiker, die sich hier bündeln um da weit auseinander zu gehen. Der Kontrast liegt eher in der Nuance als im großen Bogen. Eine faszinierende Welt im Quadrat.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthing
 
In den schönsten Momenten, sie sind nicht selten auf ‚The Transitory Poems‘, nimmt die Musik gewissermaßen selbst das Heft in die Hand. In ihrer Eigendynamik entwickelt sich eine flirrende Drift oder eine klangmalerische Tiefe, die man kaum auf Einzelaktionen der beiden Pianisten zurückzuführen weiß. Die kongeniale Improvisation von Craig Taborn und Vijay Iyer hebt eben regelmäßig ab vom Boden individueller Bravour. […] Die zwei Klaviaturen und vier Hände schaffen so einen Wechselstrom der Phantasie, der sich bald in ozeanischem Rauschen ausbreitet, bald entlädt in sinfonischen Verwerfungen. Zwischen Chaos und Stille agierend, verlieren die Pianisten die Kontrolle zwar nie. Aber sie sind offen für den Zauber der Form, der sich als Klangsignatur, als elektrisierende Melodik oder swingende Phrasierung einschreibt ins Wimmelbild der Sounds.
Ueli Bernays, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
 
This set therefore is largely a series of homages, often reverential in feel but spacious in concept. It opens as a formal concert performance, as each pianist makes his mark , but then relaxes, with Sensorium almost flippant in places, Kairòs initially just melodic fragments before exploding into rhythmic intensity, Shake Down a self-explanatory exuberant workout, Clear Monolith a stately dance with a beautiful ending. Throughout, the two pianists mesh their lines almost imperceptibly, dovetailing their rhythms and embellishing melodic details but always giving the other room to breathe. In places, their music can be austere, even daunting, but throughout there is an underlying empathetic warmth and sometimes tenderness. For two quite different stylists to have a produced a set of such unified coherence is a remarkable achievement. Full marks and many stars all round.
Simon Adams, Jazz Journal
 
An album of immense coherence. […] Beyond assertions of technical skill, Iyer and Taborn are purveyors of the metaphysical, listening more than making: Whether in sporadic (‘Kairòs’) or rhythmically-driven (‘Shake Down’) dialects, they speak in a supremely translatable language. This, if anything, is what makes these transitory poems more than freely made: rather, they’re made free.
Tyran Grillo, New York City Jazz Record
The Transitory Poems, recorded live in the concert hall of the Franz List Academy of Music in Budapest in March 2018, is the first release from the duo of Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, two of the most distinctive contemporary improvisers. Each a bandleader in his own right, these highly creative pianists have considerable shared history. They began playing together inside Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory in 2002. In Mitchell’s group, Taborn and Iyer were called upon to address complex notated material and to deal, concurrently, with the challenges of instant composing and spontaneous arrangement via collective and individual improvisation. “Our duo formed in the crucible of that band,” Vijay and Craig remark in a performers’ note here, “in pursuit of music unique to its moment of creation.” This has remained the quest throughout their subsequent duo work, shaping music in real time, the project evolving from concert to concert. “Something was born for me in the context of working with Roscoe,” Iyer has said, alluding to “a certain quality of listening: how to navigate, how to give way to each other, how to build together…”
 
Constructive collaboration informs the duo’s music. As Craig Taborn has explained, “part of my practise with improvising is to fully dive in. I become the audience, listening to events and sounds and agency. Whether I’m playing something or not is the first thing I let go of: then I can encounter what is happening.” The musical environment is scanned, details embellished, structures shored up, densities measured, rhythms dovetailed, melodic lines given space to emerge and coalesce. The music is in movement in the fleeting world of The Transitory Poems, transforming and mutating from moment to moment. At times it may acknowledge the vast history of music for two pianos although, as Craig has also pointed out, he and Vijay are “both composers and improvisers and orchestrational pianists - so the question of instrument is just a fact of the context, and not the primary challenge.”
 
Listening back to their recording, the players heard it as “a series of homages” to great artists who had profoundly influenced them, artists who had recently passed away. “Luminous Brew” is dedicated to Cecil Taylor, the pianist whose music, in its intensity, polyrhythmic complexity and sound organization, remains a vital reference for a generation of musicians. The Iyer/Taborn album title derives from a Taylor interview, in which humanity and its endeavours are considered ‘transitory poems’, unfolding against a backdrop of the mountains that are here to stay.
 
“Clear Monolith” is for Muhal Richard Abrams, the visionary pianist, composer and improviser, who lit the paths of the early AACM and opened unexplored routes for the music. The painter and sculptor Jack Whitten, dedicatee of “Sensorium”, described himself - in his log Notes from the Woodshed - as “a quantum expressionist”. Whitten derived much inspiration for his work from jazz, and spoke of translating Coltrane’s sheets of sound into sheets of light.
 
The final track is dedicated to Geri Allen and hints of her theme “When Kabuya Dances” emerge gradually through the improvisation that is “Meshwork”, before the Allen composition, a modern classic, comes to the fore.
 
 
*
 
The New York Times has suggested that “there’s probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output of Vijay Iyer.” Each of his ECM releases has highlighted another aspect of wide-ranging work. Mutations, with Iyer’s compositions for piano, string quartet and electronics was recorded in 2013 and described by The Guardian as “thoughtful, typically original and very exciting.” It was followed by Radhe Radhe, Rites of Holi a collaboration with director Prashant Bhargava, which DownBeat called “his most challenging and impressive work, the scintillating score to a compelling film.” Break Stuff featured Iyer’s popular trio with Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore (“a smashing success” – JazzTimes). A cosmic rhythm with each stroke brought Iyer together with his “hero, friend and teacher” Wadada Leo Smith to play “unique music outside all the categories” (Die Weltwoche), inspired by the art of Nasreen Mohamedi. Far From Over, with the Vijay Iyer Sextet, with Graham Haynes, Steve Lehman, Mark Shim, Stephan Crump and Tyshawn Storey, was showered with accolades. “If you’re looking for the shape of jazz to come, here it is”, wrote Rolling Stone. Far From Over was voted #1 album in the NPR Critics Poll, with the Iyer Sextet also the band of the year and Vijay musician of the year in the DownBeat Critics Poll 2018.
 
Craig Taborn’s Avenging Angel, recorded 2010, set some new directions for solo piano music. (“As exhilarating as it is serene, and as evocatively melodic as it is unsettlingly recondite, it’s a masterpiece of invention” – All About Jazz). Chants, recorded 2012, brought to a conclusion the group music Taborn had been developing over an eight-year period with drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist Thomas Morgan. “The songs on ‘Chants’, are positively shimmering, immaculately detailed, prismatic and very improvisational,” noted DownBeat. Daylight Ghosts introduced a new quartet with some old friends – Dave King, Chris Speed and Chris Lightcap – again to rave reviews. This was the sound, Jazziz opined, “of an already great musician cementing his place in the upper ranks of contemporary pianists and composers.”
 
Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn first recorded together on Roscoe Mitchell’s Song for My Sister (Pi) in 2002, with their first shared ECM credit being the Mitchell album Far Side (2007), recently reprised in the box set The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles. Taborn’s ECM debut was also with Roscoe, on 1997’s Nine to Get Ready. Craig appears furthermore on two albums with the Mitchell and Evan Parker-led Transatlantic Art Ensemble – Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3 and Boustrophedon - as well as with Mitchell’s assembled trios on Bells for the South Side. Other Taborn appearances on ECM include Michael Formanek’s The Rub and Spare Change and Small Places, Chris Potter’s Imaginary Cities and The Sirens, Ches Smith’s The Bell and David Torn’s Prezens.
 
Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn have a number of concerts this season including a performance as part of the focus on ECM at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, March 21-24.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 May 02 Harvard Cambridge MA, United States
2024 May 09 Coolidge Auditorium-Library of Congress Washington DC, United States
2024 May 19 Moss Theater Los Angeles CA, United States
2024 May 21 Kuumbwa Jazz Center Santa Cruz CA, United States
2024 June 05 Smoke New York NY, United States
2024 June 06 Smoke New York NY, United States
2024 June 07 Smoke New York NY, United States
2024 June 08 Smoke New York NY, United States
2024 June 09 Smoke New York NY, United States
2024 September 14 Arts Westchester White Plains NY, United States
2024 November 16 Kennedy Center Washington DC, United States