Break Stuff is what happens after formal elements have been addressed. Vijay Iyer calls the break “a span of time in which to act. It’s the basis for breakdowns, breakbeats, and break dancing… it can be the moment when everything comes to life.” A number of the pieces here are breakdowns of other Iyer constructions. Some are from a suite premiered at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, some derive from Open City, a collaboration with novelist Teju Cole and large ensemble. The trio energetically recasts everything it touches. “Hood” is a tribute to Detroit techno pioneer Robert Hood. On “Work”, Vijay pays homage to his “number one hero”, Thelonious Monk. “Countdown” reconsiders the classic Coltrane tune inside a rhythmic framework inspired by West African music. “Mystery Woman” is driven by compound pulses which owe a debt to South Indian drumming. Fast moving and quick-witted, the group has developed a strong musical identity of its own, with an emphasis on what Iyer calls “co-constructing”, exploring all the dynamics of playing together. Yet the three players also get abundant solo space and, in a reflective moment at the album’s centre, Iyer plays a moving version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count” alone. Break Stuff, recorded in June 2014 at New York’s Avatar Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher, is the third ECM release from Vijay Iyer. It follows the chamber music recording Mutations and the film-and-music project Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi. The Vijay Iyer Trio is touring for Break Stuff in the US and Europe.
“Positioning, flow, calibration, order — each is keenly considered here, and each helps make this the trio’s most compelling so far.” — Downbeat, 5 star “Masterpiece”
“The furiously productive pianist Vijay Iyer has just released another superlative album, “Break Stuff,” that confirms his stature in jazz’s contemporary vanguard, along with the dynamic excellence of his working trio.” — The New York Times
“A dizzying pinnacle of contemporary jazz … This is cutting edge music, but always accessible.” — The Guardian UK, 4/5 stars
“This music has the pulsing life of modern pop…Vijay Iyer, Stephan Crump, and Marcus Gilmore continue to make the argument that we are in a golden age for daring jazz that is also accessible to any open ear, young, old, or otherwise.” – Pop Matters
“Break Stuff is modern jazz on the bleeding edge, a music that not only asks musical questions but answers them, and it does so accessibly and immediately, no matter the form or concept it chooses to express.” — All Music, 4/5 stars
“The perfect primer for those unfamiliar with an ensemble equally capable of being muscular and majestic and wry and wistful.” — Wondering Sound, 8/10
“With Break Stuff, Vijay Iyer comes into his own as a master pianist, composer, and conceptualizer—one of the truly great jazz musicians of our time.” — Stereophile