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Cover

Tyshawn Sorey Trio

Alloy

  • Type CD
  • Label Pi Recordings
  • UPC 0808713005622
  • Catalog number PI 56
  • Release date 17 October 2014
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About the album

Alloy is the highly anticipated new release from drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey, his first as a leader since his Oblique-I topped multiple critics’ polls as one of the best releases of 2011. Named one of “Five Drummers Whose Time is Now” by The New York Times, Sorey has spent a career confounding those expectations. In addition to being one of the most in-demand drummers on the scene, playing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman and Myra Melford, he also holds a masters from Wesleyan University and is currently in the doctoral program atColumbia University studying with esteemed composer Fred Lerdahl. As a sideman, Sorey is known for his impossibly virtuosic technique, mixing rapid-fire playing with power and tumultuous eruptions. He is also well-known among musicians for his mind-boggling ability to effortlessly master the most difficult written scores.

One might expect Sorey’s compositions to mirror the vigor of his drum playing, but instead, they more often evince a pensive beauty, with the feeling of wading into waters in search of a mystery deep below its surface. On Alloy, Sorey takes on the classic jazz piano trio tradition and extends the continuum to include compositional influences from classical music such as Morton Feldman and Claude Debussy. Sorey also lists the works of piano trios led by artists like Muhal Richard Abrams, Paul Bley, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, and Andrew Hill, as well as contemporary artists such as Craig Taborn, Fred Hersch, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, and David Virelles.

He is joined on Alloy by pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Chris Tordini, who play an egalitarian role in shaping the music. Both have long histories performing Sorey’s music, with Smythe appearing onThat / Not (2007), Sorey’s acclaimed debut as a leader, and Tordini on Oblique-I. Smythe is the rare musician who comfortably straddles the new, classical and improvised music worlds. He is perhaps best known in the classical world for his duo performances with the acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn– a Washington Post review of the duo’s performance praised him for “…the ferocity and finesse of his technique” and The Seattle Times extolled his playing as “technically brilliant, artful without excess, supportive without overwhelming….” He is a core member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, having given numerous premier performances of works from composers such as John Zorn, Philippe Hurel, George Lewis and Alvin Lucier. As an improviser, Smythe performs with artists such as Peter Evans, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, and Anthony Braxton. Bassist Tordini is best known for his work in Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory, Claudia Quintet, and with the singer Becca Stevens, and has also played and recorded with the likes of Greg Osby, Jeremy Pelt, Ari Hoening, Steve Lehman, Jim Black, Andrew D’Angelo, and Michael Dessen.

Much of the music on Alloy is through-composed, but improvisation remains a central element to the work’s design. “Returns” is Sorey’s explosion of the functions of a standard piano trio, both in its head-solo-head format and the role played by each instrument. It begins with a repeated three or four note piano motifs with sparse commentary from bass and drums that never play strict accompaniment. It eventually builds to an animated boil before returning to its central motif. “Movement” is a formally elaborate work that demonstrates a current direction in Sorey’s compositions: music with a romantic sensibility, which he found himself embracing after the passing of his grandfather last year. The work is influenced by the work of Debussy, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, Jason Moran, Richard Wagner, and Johannes Brahms. “Template” was first released on That/Not in a quartet version. Influenced by the work of Christian Wolff, Autechre, Steve Coleman and Bela Bartok, the version heard here is performed at a much faster tempo. The piece is striking for its sudden swerve from a rubato feel to drum-driven groove over an off-kilter piano motif. One can hear evidence of Sorey’s exacting obsession with timbres: He alters his drum setup midstream, switching up sticks and snares, and dampening the bass drum to get a different aural feel from his kit. Finally, “A Love Song” is just that: not only is it inspired by other love songs – in this case Feldman’s “For Bunita Marcus,” Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams’ “Nickie, Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck,” and Percy Sledge’s rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman” – but it is also a tone poem depicting a love story between an unstable man and several women. With its dreamy passages, Sorey’s ode to love episodically follows the budding and wilting of several relationships before the man finally resolves to spend the rest of his life alone.

According to Fred Lerdahl, who Sorey is studying under at Columbia: "Two things impress me about Tyshawn beyond his immense musical talent: he is an original who follows his own path regardless of peer pressure or received social and artistic categorizations; and he is deeply devoted to craftsmanship in his music as well as in his performing, and as a result he continues to learn and grow. He never fails to astonish me." With Alloy, Sorey continues to stake new musical ground and help bring together formal classical composition and improvisation.

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    1
    Returns
     
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    2
    Movement
     
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    3
    Template
     
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    4
    A Love Song
     

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