Uneasy

Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey

EN / DE
Vijay Iyer presents a powerful new trio, in which he is joined by two key figures in creative music, Tyshawn Sorey and Linda May Han Oh.  “We have an energy together that is very distinct. It has a different kind of propulsion, a different impulse and a different spectrum of colours”. Repertoire on UnEasy, recorded at Oktaven Audio Studio in Mount Vernon, New York in December 2019, includes Iyer originals written over a span of 20 years, plus Geri Allen’s “Drummer’s Song” and a radical recasting of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.”
Der amerikanische Pianist Vijay Iyer präsentiert auf UnEasy ein kraftvolles neues Trio, in dem er von zwei Schlüsselfiguren der kreativen Musik, Tyshawn Sorey und Linda May Han Oh, begleitet wird.  "Wir haben eine gemeinsame Energie, die sehr ausgeprägt ist. Sie hat eine andere Art von Antrieb, einen anderen Impuls und ein anderes Spektrum an Farben". Das Repertoire auf UnEasy, das im Dezember 2019 im Oktaven Audio Studio in Mount Vernon, New York, aufgenommen wurde, umfasst Eigenkompositionen Iyers, die über einen Zeitraum von 20 Jahren geschrieben wurden, sowie Gerri Allens "Drummer’s Song" und eine radikale Neufassung von Cole Porters "Night and Day".
Featured Artists Recorded

December 2019, Oktaven Audio Studio, New Jersey

Original Release Date

09.04.2021

  • 1Children Of Flint
    (Vijay Iyer)
    06:26
  • 2Combat Breathing
    (Vijay Iyer)
    07:50
  • 3Night And Day
    (Cole Porter)
    09:33
  • 4Touba
    (Mike Ladd, Vijay Iyer)
    07:17
  • 5Drummer's Song
    (Geri Allen)
    06:47
  • 6Augury
    (Vijay Iyer)
    03:29
  • 7Configurations
    (Vijay Iyer)
    09:27
  • 8Uneasy
    (Vijay Iyer)
    09:11
  • 9Retrofit
    (Vijay Iyer)
    06:40
  • 10Entrustment
    (Vijay Iyer)
    05:06
If we are watching it all unfold in real time, why not listen in the same way? So, like most things these dire days, Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey start ‘Uneasy’ on a slow burn that engulfs the listener into another realm beyond isolation, beyond our societies of one. As the best street music does, ‘Uneasy’ presents a riot of ideas. Some are finely hewn, others mere hints. Some suggest joy and sorrow, others just suggest. ‘Children of Flint’ stalks the listener, casting shadows. Yet between those shadows, light. Acrobatic by nature, the trio surges forward, playing as if this could be the last thing they play together, the last discussion about justice they’ll ever have. Written in yet another tumultuous year for humankind (2014), the oddly choreographed ‘Combat Breathing,’ centered by Oh’s rich, reflective, hopeful solo and Sorey’s deft handling, continues the dialog brazenly. […] Geri Allen’s ‘Drummer’s Song’ is a hypnotic bramble that finds Sorey breaking loose from Allen’s melodic sport while Iyer punches insistently at its core. Alone at his instrument, Iyer looks back and ‘Augury’ captures purely the exact same moments of question that we have all experienced countlessly of late. First heard in quartet form on ‘Panoptic Modes’ (Red Giant, 2001) (re-released in 2010 by Pi Recordings) ‘Configurations’ adapts boldly as Oh re-imagines Stephan Crump’s vigorous lines while Iyer and Sorey set out for new horizons. Horizons unveiled via ‘Entrustment.’ Horizons that, throughout ‘Uneasy’, Iyer, Oh, and Sorey implore us to seek.
Mike Jurkovic, All About Jazz
 
Iyer beschäftigt sich gern mit Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik (schrieb auch schon mal für den britischen ‘Guardian’ einen Essay über den Zusammenhang von John Coltranes Skalen und den Fibonacci-Zahlen). Dabei ist seine Musik bei all ihrem abstrakten Zauber viel zu emotional, als dass sie uns als Fortsetzung der Mathematik mit anderen Mitteln erschiene. So wenig wie die seines jüngsten trio-Albums trotz vieler scharfer und scharfsinniger Anspielungen auf den gesellschaftlichen Zustand der USA eine Fortsetzung von Politik mit anderen Mitteln ist. Die CD heißt ‘Uneasy’, nach dem Titel eines Tanzprojekts von Iyer von vor zehn Jahren; und einen politischen Bezug verraten auch Stücke wie ‘Combat Breathing’ oder ‘Children of Flint’ (die Opfer einer Umweltkatastrophe in Michigan). Allein, das verengt die Musik nie zum agitatorischen Isntrument, bestimmt allerdings die Dringlichkeit dieser im kompakten Zusammenspiel des Trios mit der Bassistin Linda May Han Oh und dem Drummer Tyshawn Sorey entwickelten, meist komplexen Stücke. Iyers Pranke verrät seine Bewunderung für McTyner. Das ist die heftige Seite. Aber, wie sagt er selbst: ‘Wir widmen uns beidem, dem Lauten und dem Ruhigen […], dem Hurrikan und dessen Auge.’
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
 
Die Welt befindet sich in Unordnung. Wie darauf reagieren? Mit wütender, bellender Musik? Der große Pianist Vijay Iyer entschied sich für etwas anderes. […] Folgerichtig verzichtet das Trio auf alles Aggressive, nicht aber auf komplexe Strukturen. Das heißt keineswegs, sich im Wohlklang zu suhlen. So erinnern Iyer, die Kontrabassistin Linda May Han Oh und der Schlagzeuger Tyshawn Sorey im Fünfvierteltakt an einen Umweltskandal und im Elfer-Takt an den Rassismus. ‘Beruhigende, heilende Musik wurde oft in tiefer Rastlosigkeit geboren’, sagt Iyer. Die zehn Titel wühlen auf und schaffen mit ihrer Tiefe einen friedvollen Gegenentwurf.   
Werner Stiefele, Audio
 
Aussi virtuose que profound, le piano Vijay Iyer fascine un peu plus à chaque nouvelle sortie.
Marc Zisman, Jazz News
 
Vijay Iyer laisse libre cours à son toucher éblouissant, que l’on sent instinctif, explorant la douceur ou la puissance de jeu avec une folle maestria. Sa relecture tranchante du ‘Night & Day’ de Cole Porter constitue l’un des sommets de ce disque qui ne manque pas de points culminants.
Thierry Boillot, L’alsace
 
Das neue Trio des Großpianisten glänzt vor allem durch intensive Feinabstimmung, mit Iyer als primus inter pares, dem ziemlich genialen Tyshawn Sorey an den Drums, der Australierin Linda May Han Oh am raumfüllenden Bass. Die zehn Tracks reißen bei aller bemerkenswerten Abwechslung und allen verwirrend verzwackten Rhythmen durch einen durchgehend funkelnden, harmonisch eigenwilligen Puls mit. […] die Musik lebt von einer inneren, oft atemberaubend eleganten Spannung.
Markus Schneider, Rolling Stone (German Edition)
 
Man kann sich nie ganz sicher sein, in welche Richtung dieser unkonventionelle Trio-Jazz m nächsten Takt abbiegt. Das konzentrierte Aufeinanderhören und -reagieren der drei Virtuosen führt zu Momenten großer Schönheit, ohne freilich je in bloßem Wohlklang zu versacken. Umgekehrt gibt es Passagen komplexer Intensität, die sich aber nie in plakativen Avantgarde-Gesten erschöpfen. Vielmehr ist das Musik für emanzipierte Hörer, die weder gefällig sein will noch selbstgefällig ist und von produktiver Verunsicherung über gespannte Aufmerksamkeit zu purer Faszination für den Detailreichtum dieser auch klanglich exemplarisch transparenten Aufnahme führt.
Reinhold Unger, Münchner Merkur
 
Offen, frei, feinstofflich hochwertig, riskant, ständig in Bewegung, zu jeder Millisekunde auf Augenhöhe und tatsächlich demokratisch ohne jedwede hierarchische Tendenz. Ohs Bass und Soreys Drumset wirken nie wie versklavte Rhythmusinstrumente, sondern lassen Melodieformen keimen und verbieten sich jede Art von Egotrips. Iyers Bandleaderfunktion mag sich aus den acht Kompositionen herleiten lassen, die er beisteuert. Ansonsten herrscht Parität in jeder Hinsicht.
Reinhard Köchl, Augsburger Allgemeine
 
Außer dem berühmten Standard ‘Night And Day’ von Cole Porter, der in einer sehr eigenwilligen Fassung erklingt, und dem ‘Drummer’s Song’ von Iyer’s Mentorin Geri Allen stammen alle Titel aus der Feder von Vijay Iyer. Wer dieses Album auflegt, spurt sofort eine nervöse Energie, die im programmatischen Hintergrund einzelner Stücke wurzelt. So komponierte Iyer den Titel ‘Combat Breathing’ nach dem Tod des Afroamerikaners Eric Garner durch rassistisch motivierte Polizeigewalt, und der Titeltrack ‘Uneasy’ ist von den Widersprüchen der oft idealisierten Obama-Ära inspiriert. Man kann diese Musik nicht mit halbem Ohr anhören. Wenn man sich jedoch zu 100 Prozent auf sie einlässt, lässt sie einen nicht mehr los.
Mario-Felix Vogt, Pianist
 
Auf dem Plattencover sind alle drei Namen gleichberechtigt genannt, was sich auch in der Musik widerspiegelt: Die Künstler schaffen es, eine Symbiose einzugehen, die auf musikalischer Demokratie basiert. In feiner Balance spielen sie hypnotische Melodien, ungerade und eindringliche Polyrythmen, die auch mal in Fragmente zerbrechen. Das ist Avantgarde, die nicht verkopft ist und Spaß macht.
Arne Reimer, Mint
 
Iyers melodische Vorgaben haben etwas von einem Sämann. Die ausgestreuten Körner imprägniert May Han Ohs Piano mit solistischem Empowerment, von Sorey zu architektonischen Klangräumen moduliert. Der Geist der drei Musiker weht, so der assoziative Eindruck, in musikalischen Wellenbewegungen wie er will. Virtuos, energetisch aufgeladen, konfigurieren sie rhapsodische Fixpunkte (‘Configuration’). ‘Uneasy’ ist bei aller energischen, kämpferischen Behauptung des Unruhigen im Kontext des Prekären der Zeiten zwischen dem Gestern, Heute und Morgen letztlich zerbrechlich zart und empathisch gestimmt. Vijay Iyer, Tyshawn Sorey und Linda May Han Oh arrondieren intuitiv erfahrene (auch für den Hörer erfahrbare) Räume, in denen sich der thematische Fokus unaufhörlich verschiebt und Raum gibt, mit Improvisationen hinter den Spiegel des scheinbar Verlässlichen zu schauen.
Peter E. Rytz, NRW Jazz Net
 
These 10 ‘Uneasy’ pieces span 20 years of Iyer’s career, save for a breezily ingenious interpretation of Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’, and a scintillating Sorey-embellished take on pianist Geri Allen’s whimsically punchy ‘Drummer Song’. The relentlessly pumping ‘Combat Breathing’ (written in 2014 for a gig with choreographer Paloma McGregor marking the NYPD-chokehold killing of Eric Garner) reflects the trio’s collective chemistry as well as Iyer’s commitment to social and political themes. ‘Touba’, a lilting early 2000s piece, thickens and swells in jolting percussion and McCoy Tyner-esque chords […] The hip, distantly boppish ‘Configurations’ develops some of the most exciting collective improv on a set rammed with it. Though the formidable Sorey sits at the drum stool, they all move to a group pulse mysteriously sensed in every passing moment.
John Fordham, The Guardian (Jazz Album of the Month)
 
Vijay Iyer wrote ‘Uneasy’, the album’s title track, for a dance project in 2011, prompted by what he felt was an emerging sense of anxiety within American life. Now, says Iyer in the album notes, ‘the word ‘uneasy’ feels like a brutal understatement, too mild for cataclysmic times’. That also holds true for the restless energy and shape-shifting narratives that Iyer’s latest piano trio deliver here. That title track opens with the nervous tension of unresolving cadences played quietly in the piano’s lower register. But before the grand-slam piano finale, a feature for bass and fusillades of drums have shifted the emotional scale to raw [… ] Two covers reveal Iyer’s core aesthetic. The pianist’s rich tonal palette draws on the resonant chords and rococo lines that were the late McCoy Tyner’s trademark, and are a starting point for this album’s reworking of Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’. The second cover, ‘Drummer’s Song’, written by the late Geri Allen, showcases the trio’s strength and fluency. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey, a longtime collaborator, equals Iyer for power, thrust and mastery of compound time. His sizzling press rolls and offbeat rimshots are matched by the firm lines and imaginative spark of Linda May Han Oh’s double bass to produce a powerful trio of equal partners.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
 
The musical genius of post-modern jazz pianist Vijay Iyer reaches new heights on ‘Uneasy’, his fourth trio album and sixth release on the ECM Records as a leader/co-leader. Having forged a revolutionary path in jazz, Iyer continues to break new ground, this time benefiting from the rhythmic wonders of a new trio with the drummer Tyshawn Sorey, a longtime partner, and the bassist Linda May Han Oh, with whom he recorded in 2011 for the Dave Douglas Quintet.  The music takes a more jazzified route here, in the sense that it’s intrinsically connected to tradition and form, detaching from that free-er and experimental side presented in his works with Craig Taborn and Wadada Leo Smith. […] The pianist also squeezes in the jazz standard ‘Night and Day’ and Geri Allen’s ‘Drummer’s Song’. The former, inspired by McCoy Tyner’s piano work in Joe Henderson’s version, flows in a peripatetic 7/8 bliss; while the latter number, a tribute to the late influential pianist and mentor who composed it, links African folk tradition with imaginative post-bop via groove. Many moments of pleasure come out from listening to this record, in which the virtuosity of the three musicians involved is constantly put at the service of the music.
Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail
 
Toujours en quête de renouvellement, en 2019, le pianist américain a assemblé un nouveau trio avec la bassiste Linda May Han Oh et le batteur Tyshawn Sorey. […] et sa musique, toute lyrique qu’elle soit, a toujours une dimension d’engagement. […] Que ce soit de la manière la plus dynamique ou la plus délicate, la réponse du paniste passe toujours par la quête du beau. Qu’elle puise dans un standard (‘Night and Day’, Cole Porter), ou rende homage à une personne aimée et disparue (Geri Allen, ‘Drummer’s Song’), la musique de Vijay Iyer pose l’esthéetique comme remède à toutes les situations catastrophiques. Il est vrai qu’elle y parvient drôlement bien, avec style.
Dominique Simonet, Arts Libre LLB
 
‘Uneasy’ is pianist Vijay Iyer’s seventh appearance as a leader for the ECM label, and quite possibly his most impressive to date. With Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Linda May Han Oh on bass, this characterful trio navigates from one shape-shifting idea to another, magnificently working their magic on eight Iyer originals, composed over a span of twenty years, along with Cole Porter’s classic ‘Night and Day’ and Geri Allen’s ‘Drummer’s Song’. One thing that strikes me immediately whilst listening to this remarkable album, is the outpouring of human energy from the trio, manifesting itself in the performance of each and every one of these tunes. […] . Living, breathing, captivating music from a trio that ignites a spellbinding musical passion with their indomitable spirit and intensity.
Mike Gates, UK Vibe
 
The album is aptly titled – Iyer is a clean, lyrical pianist, yet his compositions have a stormy undertow which Sorey and Oh expertly draw out. The music develops through collective  improvisation, but it’s supremely focused and tight. These formal qualities are combined with a keen political edge. […] Feeding on beauty, Iyer takes on Cole Porter’s ‘Night And Day’ via Joe Henderson’s 1964 arrangement. Through powerful trio interplay and chromatic flourishes,  he shows there’s life in these old standards yet. Iyer has long been a champion of  the late, great Geri Allen, and his version of ‘Drummer’s Song’ is a delight, bringing  out the lovely dancing  melody moving between Iyer’s hands in rippling arpeggios and impressionistic shoals of tremolando.
Stewart Smith, The Wire
 
Statt dem Klavier die Rolle des Primus einzuräumen, besticht dieses Trio durch einen gleichberechtigten Diskurs: Ähnlich kammermusikalisch angelegt wie das legendäre Dreiergespann von Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro und Paul Motion, sind zwar auch hier ausgedehnte Klavier-Solos zu hören – die musikalischen Statements der drei Mitglieder verweben sich dabei aber zu atmosphärischen Texturen. Ziselierter Modern-Jazz aus dem Hause ECM, der bei aller Subtilität doch klare Strukturen und eine treibende Qualität besitzt.
Christoph Irrgeher, Wiener Zeitung
 
A triumph of small-group interchange and fertile invention. Iyer’s piano work, whether arrestingly skittish or clothed in powerful solemnity, resounds with a visceral intensity of purpose, and his resourceful compatriots respond in kind.
Steve Futterman, The New Yorker
 
Until now, the clearest distillation of Mr. Iyer’s aesthetic had been his longstanding trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore, which grew out of a quartet with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. That advanced novel ideas, particularly about cross-cultural rhythmic blends and expansions and contractions of tempo. Mr. Iyer’s new trio seems bent on subtler yet no less powerful innovations focused primarily on dynamics and feel. There is both intensity and quietude throughout these 10 tracks, often within a single piece. There are resolutions yet lingering senses of, well, uneasiness. […] Yet this album’s greatest strengths speak less of the past and more about how these three musicians, acting as equal players, create together in the present – how they weave narrative from a simple ostinato or, as on ‘Uneasy’, change up rhythms like dancers in sync […] Mr. Iyer’s trio partners possess rare gifts; each is an ambitious composer and bandleader. Ms. Oh has an unusual capacity for balancing the upper and lower registers of the bass, for simultaneously grounding rhythms while advancing melodic ideas. Mr. Sorey’s growing reputations as a composer of seemingly boundless music for both contemporary classical and jazz ensembles can sometimes obscure his brilliance behind a trap set. He shifts rhythmic gears with offhand finesse and turns something as simple as a cymbal strike into an event. Yet no one commands the spotlight here. As this trio plays, activated more than directed by Mr. Iyer’s music, we get an inkling of what it sounds like to be on the same page regarding both a piece of music and its larger context.
Larry Blumenfeld, The Wall Street Journal
 
These grade-A players cohere impressively on what is a session that pushes the vocabulary of previous releases such as ‘Historicity’ and ‘Break Stuff’ further down a personal evolutionary road. Iyer’s originals, particularly ‘Children Of Flint’ and ‘Combat Breathing’, both of which address abhorrent injustice in America, are impressive insofar as they evoke vivid moods by way of arrangements in which the rhythmic energy is tightly gripped, if not contained and and off-grid melodic motifs are imbued with the gravitas associated with such as Randy Weston or Abdullah Ibrahim. The fire crackles rather than rages.  Han Oh and Sorey make for a dynamic as well as responsive presence, as many of the songs unfold with graduated tension instead of expected points of release, often creating a kind of funk by stealth as opposed to stomp. Maybe that wily balance of lightness of touch and heaviness of effect is the real achievement of an album that, as the title suggests, has a questioning momentum at its heart.  
Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
 
As Anthony Reed puts it in ‘Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production’, a new scholarly book that Iyer has vocally endorsed, the core project of the improvisational avant-garde is ‘a commitment to ongoingness, to experimental open-endedness grounded in something other than the circularity and circulation of received forms.’ Throughout ‘Uneasy’, there’s a strong pull toward that open sensation, even as Sorey, Oh, and Iyer negotiate complex parameters of rhythm and harmony with the soaring precision of raptors on the wing. […] Each of the musicians on ‘Uneasy’ has devoted considerable energy to sociopolitical critique; nothing about this expression represents a new impulse. But the immediacy that burns within the group’s cohesion, from one moment to the next, makes this album feel especially urgent.
Nate Chinen, Pitchfork
 
A stark, black-and-white, distant photo of the Statue of Liberty; composition titles that reflect crises of infrastructure and systemic racism; an underlying tension in the music throughout; all these elements suggest that ‘Uneasy’, the new trio album by pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, could be the definitive political work of this year. But describing this record—the first from this group and the first trio work from Iyer since 2015’s ‘Break Stuff’—as merely political would be painfully reductive. Even though tracks like the Black Lives Matter-inspired ‘Combat Breathing,’ which Iyer first performed in 2014, or the whiplashing micro-suite ‘Uneasy’ do embody the turbulence of the last decade, the trio is pursuing something greater here. That pursuit is of the near-boundless potential of new collaboration, in lockstep with the Nobel-worthy chemistry that Iyer, Oh, and Sorey demonstrate. […] Eight of the album’s 10 tracks are Iyer originals; the others are incredible reworkings of Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day,’ based off of McCoy Tyner’s work on Joe Henderson’s ‘Inner Urge’ version (recorded in 1964), and Geri Allen’s ‘Drummer’s Song.’ Iyer, Oh, and Sorey take Allen’s original off-orbit three-minute calypso and extend it into a seven-minute vehicle for unified group expression. Here, as elsewhere, the trio continually morphs as it explores. As past and future intersect, the possibilities of the present become limitless
 Jackson Sinnenberg, Jazz Times
 
It’s possible that, like me, you think there are already quite enough jazz piano trio albums in your collection. Think again. ‘Uneasy’, the new recording by Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey, demands attention. The realignment of the piano-bass-drums hierarchy from ‘piano with rhythm accompaniment’ to a full three-way conversation of equals has been going on for decades, and ‘Uneasy’ is about as elevated as the format currently gets. Listen to the opener, ‘Children of Flint’, to appreciate the level of interaction between three musicians with virtuoso-level skills and giant imaginations. It sounds lyrical, even simple. But just concentrate on the astonishing touch displayed by each of the trio, whether on piano keys, bass strings, drums or cymbals, and the sense of three seamlessly interlocking and interdependent components. As you work your way through the 10 tracks — eight compositions by Iyer, plus Geri Allen’s ‘Drummer’s Song’ and Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ — you’ll also notice a complete absence of ego-projection. No one is showing off. On the sole standard, it’s easiest to hear how far Iyer can take the line of piano-playing founded by Bud Powell. Oh displays the deep sense of swing, nimble melodic imagination and beautiful sound of a 21st-century Paul Chambers. Sorey creates a momentum at once light but deep, exploiting a combination of technique and intellect that redefines the investigation of rhythm. […] . One of the records of the year, no doubt.
Richard Williams, The Blue Moment
 
‘Uneasy’, his second trio disc for the ECM label, builds on his reputation for intensity, but positions it in the context of an extraordinary musical camaraderie. The result is interestingly paradoxical. Trio-mates Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) are completely engaged with the leader’s vision of making music that reflects our anxious times. But the threesome’s committed and impressive virtuosity can’t help but give off bits of uplift even as it worries about where we are going.
Steve Feeney, Arts Fuse
 
Weltklasse-Jazz, der auch mal Unruhe stiftet […] ‘Uneasy’ von Vijay Iyer ist eine Referenzaufnahme in Sachen Transparenz und Detailreichtum; selbst in einem Club dürfte der Klang, den der Pianist hier gemeinsam mit Linda May Han Oh (Bass) und Tyshawn Sorey (Schlagzeug) produziert, kaum präsenter sein können. Dabei gehen die drei nie auf Nummer sicher, auch nicht bei der Cole-Porter-Nummer ‘Night And day’, sondern sind mit hörbarer Experimentierlust am Werk, reagieren aufeinander, beflügeln sich gegenseitig.  
Holger True, Hamburger Abendblatt
 
Seine Besorgnis über eine von Krisen und Katastrophen geplagte Welt bündelt der 50-jährige New Yorker, baut daraus komplexe Klangarchitekturen, die in der Folge unentwegt umgeschichtet warden, bis die Schwere einer Leichtigkeit weicht – bis aus ‘Uneasy’ eben ‘Easy’ wird. Wie sagte schon Leonard Cohen: ‘There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.’ Solches gelingt indes nur mit kongenialen Partnern. Mit dem herausragenden Drummer Tyshawn Sorey spielt Iyer schon seit 2001 regelmäßig zusammen. Bassist Linda May Han Oh fügt sich nahtlos ein und sorgt mit dafür, dass hier ein Trio entstanden ist, das wohl zur Zeit seinesgleichen sucht.
Rudolf Amstutz, Jazz’n’More
 
With a trio of Linda May Han Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, Iyer has recorded a new album, ‘Uneasy’, that continues the defiant political legacy of improvised music. Through songs that tackle the Flint water crisis, the murder of Eric Garner, and social unrest, Iyer connects his music to the key issues of our day without singing a word. While his songs are borne out of our chaotic present and crackle with fierce urgency, they also reach back to elders like John Coltrane, Geri Allen, and Charles Mingus — musicians who never shied away from a fight.
Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding, Vulture
 
Vijay Iyer est bien le ‘primus inter pares’ mais son nom n’est pas plus grand que celui des autres sur la pochette: Linda May Han Oh, la contrebassiste australienne, et Tyshawn Sorey, le batteur américain, sont à ses côtés, parce qu’ils participent grandement à cette musique en perpétuelle mutation que nous offre Iyer. Il y a non seulement une incroyable énergie dans ce trio, une façon d’aller au bout des improvisations, mais aussi une palette de couleurs totalement personnelle, un toucher particulier qui permet à l’auditeur non averti de saisir la musique, de l’aimer et d’en être profondément  ému, malgré sa complexité rythmique et harmonique. Un grand disque.
Jean-Claude Vantroyen, Le Soir
 
Wie schon der Titel andeutet, beschäftigt sich Iyer in seinen Kompositionen mit politischen und sozialen Turbulenzen unserer Tage. ‘Children of Flint’ und ‘Combat Breathing’ sind zwei solche Beispiele, in denen der Pianist seinen persönlichen Kommentar zur Black-Lives-Matter-Bewegung abgibt.  Er tut das mit formal, metrisch und harmonisch anspruchsvollen Stücken, die nicht laut und plakativ daherkommen, sondern eher in Form eines ‘quiet storm’.  Die Bandchemie zwischen Iyer und Linda May Han Oh (b) sowie Tyshawn Sorey (dr) ist ein zusätzliches Plus.
Martin Schuster, Concerto
 
Cette envie de créer est prégnante du premier au dernier thème, chacun marqué par une interaction de tous les instants et le souci constant de mettre en avant un son de groupe, et un message social fort illustré par la photo de la Statue de la Liberté en couverture, sombre et lointaine, triste symbole d’une Amérique qui a souffert ces dernières années […] ‘Uneasy’, où dominant à la fois une spontanéité et une empathie de tous les instants, poussée par un message social formidablement humain.
Jean-Pierre Goffin, L’avenir
 
A lithe range of motion and resplendent clarity, in the style of well-schooled jazz musicians, while stoking a kind of writhing internal tension. Crucial to that balance is [the trio’s] ability to connect with each other in real time, almost telepathically.
Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times
 
The resulting album, ‘Uneasy’ is extraordinary, and it can be heard in myriad ways. As another entry in Iyer’s extensive oeuvre, reaffirming his status as one of the most creative figures in improvised music. As an acknowledgment of seminal influences. As a supremely confident work by a trio that was just beginning to make its presence felt when the pandemic ruled out further public performance.
David Weininger, Boston Globe
 
Nun hat auch der Pianist Vijay Iyer, 49, ein Album produziert, das die politische Unruhe unserer Zeit schon im Titel führt: ‘Uneasy’. Iyer, einer der großen Musiker seiner Generation, schreibt damit das Projekt seines Albums ‘Far From Over’ fort, das auch um soziale Probleme kreist. Iyer spielt mit der Bassistin Linda May Han Oh und dem Schlagzeuger Tyshawn Sorey zusammen, besonders Soreys hyperaktives Geklöppel passt wunderbar zu Iyers Klanglandschaften. Dies ist tief empfundener, meisterhafter Trio-Jazz. Eine Frage stellt sich aber: Wo bleibt die Wut?  Da gibt es einen Song, der den Kindern der amerikanischen Stadt Flint gewidmet ist, die an vergiftetem Leitungswasser erkrankten, ein anderer heisst ‘Combat Breathing’ und handelt von den Opfern amerikanischer Polizeiwillkür. Iyer löst die Widersprüche der Welt in Schönheit auf – nicht mit kämpferischen Posten.
Tobias Rapp, Der Spiegel
 
Wie tief dabei sein Verständnis der Jazzgeschichte ist, zeigt er u.a. anhand des bekannten Standards ‘Night and Day’. Seine Interpretation braucht sich nicht hinter den großen Trios von Bill Evans oder Keith Jarrett zu verstecken.
Jan Tengeler, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
 
The evolution of the trio, it used to be called the piano trio, has reached a new phase.  This trio is beyond Evans/Motian/LaFaro. Iyer, Sorey and Oh are working with different mind sets. This is ‘woke’ music suffused with an awareness jazz.  It is as aware as Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’. […] The uneasiness that underlies this album is part of our times.  The title ‘Children of Flint’ is about the dreadful catastrophe that has affected the township of Flint Michigan where children have been poisoned by the lead polluted water supply in the area. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children were exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead. Themes like that go well beyond the standards that were the staple of piano trios. ‘Combat Breathing,’ was written by Iyer after the death of Eric Garner in 2014, which was one of the events that created Black Lives Matter. Garner was killed in a police chokehold for the offence of selling single cigarettes. […] Iyer has a deep knowledge of jazz traditions.  One of his favourite piano trios is the one formed with Ellington, Mingus and Roach for the ‘Money Jungle’ album. ‘Drummer’s Song’ is a complex piece by Geri Allen one of Iyer’s influences. The inspiration behind ‘Night and Day’ comes from the Joe Henderson and McCoy Tyner version of the song. Iyer has written most of the themes on ‘Uneasy’ and it is his thoughts and philosophy that animate the album […] The cohesive trio is united both musically and politically: it is that unity that gives the music of the trio extra vitality. […] Ultimately the album is a musical offering and, looked at in that way, it is a substantial addition to the history of the piano trio.
Jack Kenny, Jazzviews
 
Ein ungewöhnlicher Albumtitel, zumal die Musik auf Vijay Iyers neuem Trio-Album alles andere als unangenehm ist. Mit dem Motto hebt der Pianist auf die unsicheren gesellschaftlichen Bedingungen ab, unter denen die CD entstanden ist. Diese Fragilität überträgt sich auf die sehr unterschiedlichen Songs […] Obgleich der Pianist, die Bassistin und der Drummer einander über viele Jahre vertraut sind, gelingt es dem Trio, das Gefühl eines spontanen Treffens zu vermitteln, bei dem alles auf den Tisch kommt, was dort genau in diesem Augenblick hingehört.
Wolf Kampmann, Stereoplay
 
Wer ‘Uneasy’ auflegt, spürt jäh ein Verlangen nach großen, edlen Lautsprechern. Denn jeder Ton des Pianisten, begleitet von Kontrabass und Schlagzeug, will in voller Klarheit genossen sein. Iyers Spiel besteht aus vielen Färbungen, vielen Verminderungen, vielen schwarzen Tasten. Der Effekt ist eine anhaltende Spannung im Schönklang. 70 Minute dauert das Album; keine Sekunde ist beliebig.
Oliver Creutz, Stern
 
‘Uneasy’, das im Dezember 2019 entstand, also vor Beginn der Pandemie und noch mitten in der Ära Trump, bündelt den US-amerikanischen Schmerz des frühen 21. Jahrhunderts. […] Schon das Coverfoto des Albums bringt die ganze Ambivalenz auf den Punkt. Es zeigt die Freiheitsstatue in einer Schwarz-Weiß-Doppelbelichtung des koreanischen Fotografen Woong Chul An; Lady Liberty steht verschwommen und grau da, scheinbar gefangen in einem Wolkenteppich, der direkt über dem Meer hängt. Das, was die Vereinigten Staaten einst von anderen Ländern abhob, scheint in weite Ferne gerückt, aber noch nicht ganz verblasst […] Drei Verschwörer auf ihrem abenteuerlichen Weg durch musikalische Lanyrinthe, steinige Felswände, Blumengärten, trockene Wüsten und Galaxien: Sie erzählen moderne Märchen in Noten mit einem harten realistischen Hintergrund.
Reinhard Köchl, Die Zeit
 
Klaviertrio-Jazz von seltener künstlerischer Höhe. Die Basis sind Kompositionen Iyers aus zwei Jahrzehnten, dazu der Klassiker "Night And Day" und ein Stück von Geri Allen, einem pianistischen Vorbild Iyers. Es sind melodische Stücke, die sich stets zu kämpferischer Dynamik steigern. Ohne dass aber das eine auf Kosten des anderen ginge, beides bleibt immer miteinander verbunden in der unglaublich dichten Spielweise dieses Trios. Iyers linke Hand verbindet sich mit Ohs Bass zu kraftvollen und widerstandsfähigen Grooves, seine rechte in perkussiven Ostinati mit Soreys tänzelnden Trommeln und wie Atemstöße zischenden Becken. In Soli und Dialogen (in ‘Configurations’) werden die Individuen hörbar, zusammen werden sie zu einer Einheit, die gemeinsam stärker ist. Musik, die nicht nur Trost spendet, sondern auch Kraft verleiht.
Thomas Steiner, Badische Zeitung
 
Jedes Stück auf ‘Uneasy’ bildet einen Höhepunkt von insistierender Kraft. Diese Musik hat Feuer und Spannung, aber immer wieder auch eine vibrierende, fast rockige Erdigkeit, die an Randy Weston oder Abdullah Ibrahim denken lässt.   
Hans-Jürgen Schaal, Jazzthetik
 
Die zehn Kompositionen auf ‘Uneasy’ strotzen vor komplizierten Metren, die merkwürdig einfach und eingängig erscheinen (‘Combat Breathing’), ständig wechseln (‘Uneasy’) oder sich schwer durchschaubar überlagern und in die Quere kommen (‘Drummer’s Song’). […] Der durchund durch politisch reflektierende Charakter seiner Musik bringt Iyer nicht dazu, laut und krass zu spielen. Cole Porters ‘Night and Day’ wirkt sogar vergleichsweise fröhlich: ingesamt ist die Musik feinsinnig und straff gewoben, in der Dynamik zurückhaltend, oft atemberaubend ausgewogen und durchsichtig. Eine enorme Intensität strömt verschwenderisch aus ihrem Feinsinn.  
Hans-Jürgen Linke, Frankfurter Rundschau
Uneasy, with Tyshawn Sorey and Linda May Han Oh, is Vijay Iyer’s second trio album on ECM and his seventh appearance as a leader on the label. Navigating from one shape-shifting idea to another, he continues to push boundaries from one album to the next. His unique musical approach has gained him many accolades and much praise from the international press, The New York Times summarizing his persona as a “social conscience, multimedia collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinker and multicultural gateway”. On Uneasy, he draws on the history of the music while continuing to push it forward. In the course of this endeavour, the political and social turbulences dominating today’s American landscape are reflected in musical contemplation and tense space. In his liner notes, Vijay elaborates on how today “the word ‘uneasy’ feels like a brutal understatement, too mild for cataclysmic times. But maybe, since the word contains its own opposite, it reminds us that the most soothing, healing music is often born of and situated within profound unrest; and conversely, the most turbulent music may contain stillness, coolness, even wisdom.”
 
Uneasy portrays this cast’s first studio session after having played together throughout 2019 – Tyshawn and Vijay’s partnership even going back to 2003, when they both appeared on Vijay’s quartet album “Blood Sutra”, featuring saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and bassist Stephan Crump. They’ve worked together frequently since, including on Vijay’s 2017 ECM release Far From Over. Linda May Han Oh is a new collaborator of Vijay’s, although their professional relationship has been developing for several years. A consistent guest faculty member of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in Alberta, Canada, the bassist has become well acquainted with Vijay and Tyshawn, the workshop’s co-artistic directors.
 
Linda and Tyshawn have both recorded with ECM before – Sorey playing on Roscoe Mitchell’s Bells For The South Side and Oh adding her unique voice as bass to German pianist Florian Weber’s ECM debut Lucent Waters. Her nimble language and Tyshawn’s robust but deeply musical swing add the complementing pieces that set Uneasy apart from Vijay’s past work and build a striking contrast to his last trio outing Break Stuff. “We have an energy together that is very distinct. It has a different kind of propulsion, a different impulse and a different spectrum of colours”, raves Vijay in regard to his trio partners.
 
Lending the album its title, UnEasy was originally the name of a dance project, coordinated between Vijay and choreographer Karole Armitage’s dance company in 2011. Uneasy builds on the paradox the title implies and takes up the underlying atmosphere of threat it alludes to – a decade after and ten years deeper into a world and time of unrest.
 
On Uneasy, eight Vijay originals, composed over a span of twenty years, are joined by a rendition of Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” as well as Geri Allen’s “Drummer Song”. The latter represents the second Geri Allen composition on a Vijay record after his co-led date with Craig Taborn, The Transitory Poems, which ends on Allen’s “When Kabuya Dances”. Among other occasions, Vijay played a rendition of “Drummer’s Song” in light of the Geri Allen tribute concert at the New York City Winter Jazzfest in 2018 – Downbeat magazine calling his performance “one of the evening’s early highlights” and “compelling with its hypnotic melody and insistent polyrhythms”. On the version found here, Vijay captures the composition-defining ostinato on piano before it’s broken up into fragments and consecutively divided among the trio – Vijay knew Geri Allen well and comments on her tricky composition: “I remember intensively practicing “Drummer’s Song” when I first learned the way that Geri had played it in the trio format. It’s hard to pull off and you have to be very balanced. Geri would do it seamlessly, without drawing attention to it, but I had to realize how much harder it is than it sounds”. Vijay stresses the importance Allen had in his life: “She was a huge influence on me as a musician and a very kind, generous mentor and colleague alike. I want to uphold her legacy as much as I can and contribute to her memory”
 
The album is introduced by “Children of Flint”, a harmonically angular structure with an urgent rhythmical drive counted in five. Written by Vijay in 2019, the song is dedicated to children hailing from Flint, a town located near Detroit in Michigan. Vijay emphasizes the importance of the composition’s tragic background: “Through gross negligence and systematic racism, the entire town’s drinking water supply was poisoned with lead. Thousands of children in that town, who are mostly African American, have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead, leading to widespread health issues, chronic illnesses and learning disabilities. This piece is dedicated to those children.
 
 “Combat Breathing” was initially written to accompany a political action at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the wake of the first Black Lives Matter protests in 2014. The song – another odd-measured exercise, this time around counted in eleven – reveals a recurringly descending cadence that offers each member of the trio plenty of space to unfold in and experiment with. An especially quiet passage halfway through the song provides the listener with Linda May Han Oh’s poignant, melodic solo and demonstrates the trio’s dynamic breadth.
 
Much of Uneasy’s music builds on improvised interplay and spontaneous shifts of focus that Vijay, Tyshawn and Linda explore. “I think we’ve always had a wide range of energies we can explore when we play together. It’s not just about the form or about executing things with an agenda to impress anybody. Sometimes it’s just about tapping into some kind of intuitive space and try to find something beneath the surface that animates or propels”
 
When Vijay talks about “tapping into ambient energy” and “the forces and motion around us”, he emphatically describes the exploratory spirit and impromptu emphases that happen beyond what can be captured in musical notation. The kind of moments that also happen on “Configurations” – an early piece of Vijay’s that first appeared on his 2001 album Panoptic Modes. “It was an early attempt of mine to work with certain rhythmic ideas from southern India, including the lengthy coda of tempo transformations. Tyshawn and I had started working together not long after that album was recorded, so we dug back into our memory banks to adapt it for this trio.”
 
“Retrofit” represents another adaptation of a piece originally intended for a different format. Composed in 2019, the pianist wrote the rhythmically dense exercise with his sextet in mind. Elements of the composition, such as constantly shifting drum parts or its rather fragmented, as opposed to linear, surface show parallels to parts of his sextet album Far From Over; the trio arrangement dissects the tracks components anatomically, down to the structures skeletal core, making it a fierce display of each musician’s strong character.
 
Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” represents the disc’s sole standard and Vijay’s nod to the past and its tradition. Inspired by Joe Henderson’s interpretation, as heard on his 1964 album Inner Urge, Vijay builds on McCoy Tyner’s performance and adapts the track to this trio. “I especially loved the way the late great McCoy Tyner navigated Henderson’s harmonic maze. I’ve studied Tyner’s fluidity, hard groove, and deep sonorities for decades. In the wake of his passing in 2020, I was again revisiting the moments in his playing that were formative for me and was glad to have this recording as a humble testament.”
 
An improvised solo meditation on piano, “Augury” captures the atmosphere and spirit of a session surrounded by clouds on the verge of an unravelling a storm. “The title refers to an old method of divination. When we recorded at the end of 2019, we were on the crest of a year that turned out to be a global nightmare. Was the threat already apparent, if we searched our intuitions?”
 
Uneasy picks up where Far From Over left off, reflecting on the inequalities and troublesome socio-political landscape of our times. But where Far From Over stressed that there lay “much more work ahead”, as Vijay puts it, Uneasy amplifies the urgency – or maybe more accurately – the emergency of the turmoil, agitation and disparity that prevails in society around the globe. “My compositions on this album span over the past twenty years and the initial UnEasy project was in the middle of that, ten years ago. It was hinting at something that’s unstable. We already had precarity and unrest. There’s always been something disturbing going on, and now we see it explosively unfolding before our eyes.”
 
 
Uneasy, recorded at the Oktaven Audio Studio in Mount Vernon, New York, was produced by Vijay Iyer and Manfred Eicher.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
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 October 02 Enjoy Jazz Festival Ludwigshafen, Germany
2024 October 07 EnjoyJazz Karlstorbahnhof Heidelberg, Germany
2024 November 16 Kennedy Center Washington DC, United States
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