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15 December 2008
Praised by NPR’s Fresh Air as “a jazz power trio for the new century,” Fieldwork makes its most powerful and fiercely imagined statement to date with Door, their third album for Pi Recordings. An important marker in this New York collective’s ongoing evolution, Door documents three years of intense collaboration since Simulated Progress, and is the first Fieldwork recording to feature the jaw-dropping contributions of Tyshawn Sorey, drummer/composer/co-leader of Fieldwork since 2005. Rounded out by saxophonist/composer Steve Lehman and pianist/composer Vijay Iyer, Fieldwork reflects and refracts the American jazz tradition, modern composition, African and South Asian musics, underground hip-hop and electronica, and the influential music of Chicago’s AACM. The resulting blend is “rich in paradox: dark yet uplifting, intellectually demanding yet effortlessly funky” (JazzTimes).
All three members have growing reputations as important young bandleaders, composers, and players. Tyshawn Sorey is a new star on the New York creative music scene who has received critical acclaim for his work with Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, and Muhal Richard Abrams, and for his expansive debut recording That/Not. Steve Lehman is an emerging heavyweight leader whose output resides on the frontiers of contemporary music, including extensive work with Anthony Braxton and Meshell Ndegeocello. Vijay Iyer is an award-winning pianist, composer, and electronic musician known for his widely respected solo projects, his ongoing collaborations with indie hip-hop poet Mike Ladd and with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, and his sideman work with Steve Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, and Wadada Leo Smith.
The music on Door is born of Fieldwork’s signature rehearsal process, which perhaps most resembles that of a rock band, and which they have rigorously maintained for their entire seven-year existence. They use extensive, non-soloistic group improvisation to expand each intricate composition into something far beyond the sum of its parts: tightly unified ensemble playing, extroverted and high-impact, but with a mysterious inner logic a dense, visceral, and richly layered musical world. “Highly emotional, cutting-edge and accessible” (The Montreal Gazette)
Door features compositions by all three members: six by Sorey, three by Iyer and two by Lehman. But regardless of the composer, each piece is reconfigured and reworked collectively, so that the result reflects the band’s ethos It sounds like Fieldwork and no other. With the startling counterpoints that emerge among the three players - Sorey’s propulsive polyphony, in tight dialogue with Iyer’s laconic, percussive assertions, crosscut by Lehman’s tart diagonal slices the performances feel spontaneous, with surprising twists and turns, with sharp corners leading to unexpected destinations.
Whether it’s in the cyclical nature of “Pivot Point,” with its mobius strip-like structure, or the examination and re-examination of the various permutations of “Cycle,” Sorey’s writing is restrained and unorthodox.
Lehman’s contributions, “After Meaning” and “Rai” highlight his fascination with complex, stop and start rhythms and the use of microtones. “After Meaning” opens with close to two minutes of through-composed music, performed so effortlessly that the line between composition and improvisation is completely blurred.
Vijay contributes three shape-shifting compositions. In “Ghost Time” his persistent piano builds suspense, slowly ramping up the intensity and finally resolving in an infectious groove. “Less” starts as a soft conversation, which becomes increasingly animated.
Fieldwork continues to work to master its own approach to improvised music that of collective engagement with pre-composed materials rather than the traditional model of individual solos. This novel approach opens up endless possibilities for the artists to explore the themes of beauty and emotion, often in the most surprising and unpredictable of ways.
Newark-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey (b. 1980) is celebrated for his incomparable virtuosity, effortless mastery and memorization of highly complex scores, and an extraordinary ability to blend composition and improvisation in his work. He has performed nationally and internationally with his own ensembles, as well as artists such as John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Claire Chase, Steve Lehman, Jason Moran, Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, and Myra Melford, among many others. The New York Times has praised Sorey for his instrumental facility and aplomb, “he plays not only with gale-force physicality, but also a sense of scale and equipoise”; The Wall Street Journal notes Sorey is, “a composer of radical and seemingly boundless ideas.” The New Yorker recently noted that Sorey is “among the most formidable denizens of the in-between zone…An extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.” Sorey has composed works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the International Contemporary Ensemble, soprano Julia Bullock, PRISM Quartet, JACK Quartet, TAK Ensemble, the McGill-McHale Trio, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, Alarm Will Sound, the Louisville Orchestra, and tenor Lawrence Brownlee with Opera Philadelphia in partnership with Carnegie Hall, as well as for countless collaborative performers. His music has been performed in notable venues such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Village Vanguard, the Ojai Music Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Kimmel Center, and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. Sorey has received support for his creative projects from The Jerome Foundation, The Shifting Foundation, Van Lier Fellowship, and was named a 2017 MacArthur fellow and a 2018 United States Artists Fellow.