Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far From Over (ECM Records)

One of 2017s finest jazz albums, the prolific American band leader returns with a brilliant new set

Released Aug 25th, 2017 via ECM Records / By Norman Miller
Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far From Over (ECM Records) You can't doubt Vijay Iyer's work ethic, with this being his fifth album for jazz label titans ECM since 2014. Diverse too - 2016's A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke saw him duet with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, following from Break Stuff from 2015 with his long-standing trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Before that, his ravishing 35-minute score to the 2013 film Radhe Radhe – Rites of Holi showcased his interest in Indian music.

Here he expands his musical palette to a sextet – Crump on bass, past collaborator Tyshawn Sorey on drums plus a trio of hornmen comprising Mark Shim (tenor sax), Steve Lehman (alto sax) and Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn). It's a line-up that allows a brilliant tonal spectrum. 'This group has a lot of fire in it, but also a lot of earth, because the tones are so deep, the timbres and textures', Iyer says. 'There’s also air and water – the music moves'.

The bar is set incredibly high from the start with the jaw-dropping opener Poles, as Iyer's sweetly reflective piano opening is blown away by a spiky blast of horns in a complex interplay of jagged notes and stabbing keyboard, before a gorgeous final slow section where Haynes' cornet weaves sensuously with Iyer’s Fender Rhodes.

Several other tracks merit five stars too, however. The dark funk of End Of The Tunnel matches the brilliance of Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, For Amiri Baraka is a masterpiece of slow moody piano, while Into Action is a paean to the joy of swooping horn playing. The title track somehow nods to both Coltrane and Davis circa Birth Of The Cool, while the skittish Down To The Wire is a breathless homage to post-bop.

Iyer can take things slow to dazzling effect too. The ravishing stateliness of Wake rivals Poles as the album's standout track, while the closing Threnody sees Iyer tracing out a skein of mesmeric piano lines complemented by sweetly entwining wailing sax. Brilliant.