Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey: Compassion

Piano, bass and drums trio improvises on largely modal sequences over rhythms ranging from rolling rubato to urgent Latin-rock


Piano, bass and drum trios come together and drift apart with regularity. There’s enough evidence on this trio’s second album to hope that the same doesn’t prove to be true because they have a habit of singing off the same hymn sheet whilst losing little of their individual identities.

Their grasp of dynamics is clear on Arch, which in around seven winks of an eye falls from animation to a state of contemplation before ending abruptly yet at a moment that feels right. They’re close listeners too, each capable of responding quickly to one another’s input and in a manner which, while it inevitably shows the influence of countless earlier trios, doesn’t do so overtly.

In an album that ranges relatively widely in terms of mood, it’s perhaps equally inevitable that some pieces will leave more of an impression than others, and for me Maelstrom is a case in point. Again the trio’s collective ability to fall quickly from a shout to a whisper is a musical virtue, while the level of commitment is deftly maintained.

Roscoe Mitchell’s Nonaah gets a less than three-minute outing, which in a way is a shame as I suspect a longer take would have enabled the trio to tease out nuances. But the fact that it’s here at all is testament to where this group is coming from in terms of “the tradition”.

Compassion; Overjoyed; Maelstrom; Prelude; Orison; Tempest; Panegyric; Nonaah; Where I Am; Ghostrumental; It Goes; Free Spirits / Drummer’s Song (65.36)
Iyer (p); Oh (b); Sorey (d). Oktaven Studio, Mount Vernon, New York, May 2022.
ECM 556 7498