In this week's RFT Music feature, jazz pianist Vijay Iyer speaks eloquently about his beyond-stunning new album Accelerando. Topics include hurricanes, Westerners' fear of odd numbers, and the concept of genre as a product of community. Accelerando dropped yesterday, and tonight his trio begins a four-night stint at Jazz At The Bistro (3536 Washington Avenue, 314-289-4030) with two sets nightly at 7:30 and 9:00 p.m.
Vijay Iyer's trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore made its Bistro debut in January of 2010. St. Louis is honored to have the group return, and the feeling is apparently mutual. "The way things are in the United States, it's rare to get to play in the same city twice at all," he says. "I'm coming back to St. Louis, which is great because we came here a couple years ago. I get to play Boston and San Francisco once a year. I rarely ever play Los Angeles. I haven't been to Chicago in quite a few years, and these are bigger cities. The fact that I get to go back to St. Louis to play the same venue with the same band, it's more than a privilege. This never happens."
Iyer's memories of his previous Bistro experience are fond, partly because the trio spontaneously debuted a the track that made its way onto Accelerando: "Human Nature (Trio Extension)," a cover of the Michael Jackson tune. "'Human Nature,' actually came about in St. Louis the last time we were there," he says. "I had done [the song] for my Solo record. I started doing it when Michael passed away. I had some solo gigs that summer before [Vijay Iyer Trio's 2009 album] Historicity came out and I wanted to pay homage to this guy that i'd grown up with. I couldn't pretend it didn't matter. And that arrangement made it onto my solo record.
"But when we were in St. Louis, Marcus heard me doing it at soundcheck and then he just sort of got on it, he knew what happened rhythmically. I thought we were messing around, but then during the set break he said 'Can we do that?' So then we started doing it that day at our run at the Bistro. It's then been road tested many times since. That's why I let it go so long on the album. We did one take of it and it just is an authentic representation of itself. It's not like we constructed it or tried to get it in one take verses another. I assumed we would edit it down, but then I listened to it and I said 'This feels good, why would I not put this on the record?' So you hear it as is."