Take Five: Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith, Larry Young, Danny Green Trio & More (ALBUM RECAPS)

Take Five is a seasonal jazz column by Glide contributor Doug Collette, who will be taking snap-shot reviews of recent jazz albums…

Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith/A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM): Music of a stark simplicity arises from the dual ruminations of Vijay Iyer on piano and Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet. The two usually take turns offering ideas, but on occasion, speak as one or complete each other’s thoughts only to elicit new themes to embroider upon. There’s a somber tranquility to this collaboration that sometimes belies its title but by the time it’s over, these two self-restrained, disciplined musicians have created an atmosphere of comforting(though not complacent) repose.

Larry Young/In Paris: The ORTF Sessions (Resonance Records): Those who know Larry Young for his estimable work on the Hammond organ may be surprised at the bristling ingenuity on this splendid piece of archival work, but the complement of horns that reappear through these two compact discs doesn’t sublimate the importance of his keyboard work. In fact, in an illustration of the ‘less is more’ premise, Young’s organ work is all the more worth savoring in the context of the more complex charts within which it’s interwoven. Lavish packaging puts this music in its proper context, not just in this individual musicians work, but that of jazz at large.

Danny Green Trio/Altered Narratives (OA2 Records): The carefully orchestrated touches here only highlights a contrast with the prevailing simplicity of this album. In addition, the strings illuminate the naturally intuitive interaction of the three musicians who appear on it. The leader sets an assertive tone with his piano, (insistently) prompting Justin Grinnell on bass and Julien Danthelm on drums to respond in kind, the resulting intensity simultaneously reaffirming the durability and self-renewing nature of this particular instrumental format.

Warren Wolf/Convergence (Mack Avenue): The vibist’s latest record vaults him up another rung (or more) on the hierarchical ladder of contemporary masters of the instrument including Stefon Harris and Gary Burton. It’s testament to his burgeoning talent that, congruent with the title, his playing has attracted similarly-gifted musicians of comparable pedigree (albeit with somewhat more experience). And it’s also telling that pianist Brad Mehldau and guitarist John Scofield add to and expand the rarefied atmosphere Warren Wolf creates…all of which the beautiful recorded sound accentuates.

Hristo Vitchev Quartet/In Search of Wonders (First Orbit Sounds Music): On this double album, Hristo Vitchev and his band display a tangible camaraderie that permeates the music with as much positivism as purpose. Without at all sounding imitative or derivative, the four-piece conjure as much joy in the ruminative likes of “Falling in Orange” as in the cheery bounce of “The Transitory Nature,” all of which is arranged and played with a delicate intricacy. Meanwhile, the simplicity at the surface renders these tunes readily accessible, but the album also benefits from careful listening an exercise revealing the detail arising from this unit’s collective passion.

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