Vijay Iyer Trio
By Joe DeBonis
The jazz scene is apparently alive and well in Albuquerque. The only show I have ever seen at the Outpost was part of a Matana Roberts concert that was about half full at best, so walking into the Outpost, knowing full well that the show was sold out still was quite a surprising experience realizing how many people “listened” to jazz in the community. Obviously the crowd was older and whiter than most jazz audiences must have been for most of the 20th century but I never truly realized how much of a status thing it was to go to jazz concerts in today’s day and age. It was so full that me and Ruben ended up having to stand in the back instead of trying to slink between the crowd and attempt to find two seats unoccupied and by each other. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Vijay Iyer made sure to entertain us with some of the liveliest music I had heard in a long time.
I really have little experience going to jazz concerts or even listening to the music. I played in jazz bands in middle and high school so I had a very basic understanding of what I was getting myself into, but even so, it was a pretty unique concert experience for myself. The band began with an incredibly delicate, slow piano piece that I was worried would predict what the rest of the show would sound like. Almost immediately as this thought came into my mind the tempo picked up and the rhythms and melodies began to become more intricate. It was a wild ride of music of the most complicated I had ever heard in a live setting and each musician obviously was a master of their instrument as each one of them was able to take control of the music, lead the way or play a wonderful backing line all with little to no effort. They played for almost two straight hours and balanced amazingly gentle songs with music that could only be described as dancing music in a way that kept me moving my body nearly the whole time. It was exciting, breathtaking and above all energetic and by the end of the night I understood that I really was ignoring an important and enjoyable genre of music.
The unspoken communication amongst the band is what impressed me the most though. There were two songs in particular that the band stopped on a dime without so much as a second glance at each other to understand that they would be coming to a halt. This was of course after ten plus minutes of controlled chaos of each member taking turns to improvise and go crazy on their instrument. There was just such a strong cohesiveness amongst the group, I felt like I was watching one entity, not three members making up a band. In particular, there was one song where the drummer was essentially playing two different tempos at the same time and the band was able to morph into both seamlessly and still each improvise their way to the end of the song as if it was the simplest song in the world. Above all, I was impressed with the musicianship, the musicality and how much fun I had at a kind of show I hardly ever find myself at and I now will keep my eye on the Outpost and the different shows that are coming through.