Tyshawn Sorey — Alloy
Born: July 8, 1980, Newark, New Jersey
Location: New York, NY
Album release: October 27, 2014
Record Label: Pi Recordings
1 Returns 7:58
2 Movement 19:52
3 Template 7:19
4 A Love Song 30:53
º→ Tyshawn Sorey: drums;
º→ Cory Smythe: piano;
º→ Christopher Tordini: bass.
About the Album
º→ 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 at Columbia University studying with esteemed composers Fred Lerdahl and George Lewis. 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 even the most difficult written scores.
º→ One might expect Soreys compositions to mirror the vigor of his drum playing, but instead, they more often evince a pensive beauty, with the feeling of wading into deep waters in search of a mystery below the surface. On Alloy, Sorey takes on the jazz piano trio tradition as exemplified by Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Andrew Hill, in addition to contemporary artists such as Craig Taborn, Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer and extends the continuum to include compositional influences from classical music such as Morton Feldman, Claude Debussy and Frédéric Chopin. He is joined by pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Chris Tordini, who play an egalitarian role in shaping the music. Both have long histories performing Soreys music, with Smythe appearing on That / Not (2007), Soreys acclaimed debut as a leader, and Tordini on Oblique–I. º→ 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 Seattle Times review of the duos performance 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 solid and effortless work in Andy Milnes Dapp Theory, the Claudia Quintet, and with the singer Becca Stevens, and has also played and recorded with the likes of Greg Osby, Jeremy Pelt, Ari Hoenig, Steve Lehman, Jim Black, Andrew DAngelo, and Michael Dessen.
º→ Much of the music on Alloy is through–composed, but improvisation remains a central element to the works design. Returns is Soreys explosion of the functions of a standard piano trio, both in its head–solo–head format and the role played by each instrument. Inspired by Morton Feldman and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s early piano works, the piece begins with repeated three or four note piano motifs with sparse commentary from bass and drums that never play strict accompaniment, eventually building to an animated boil before returning to its central motif. Movement is a formally elaborate work that reveals Soreys renewed interest in composing tonal music. The composition influenced by the work of Brahms, Debussy and Bill Evans reimagines a romantic piece for classical piano framed in a jazz piano trio context. Template was first released on That/Not performed by a quartet playing at a much slower tempo. For the version on Alloy, Sorey decided on a lark to have the band try speeding it up, which surprisingly became the final master. Influenced by the work of Christian Wolff, Autechre, Steve Coleman and Bela Bartok, 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 Soreys 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, inspired by Feldmans For Bunita Marcus, Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams Nickie, Alban Bergs Wozzeck, and Percy Sledges rendition of When a Man Loves a Woman, is a tone poem depicting a love story between an unstable man and several women. With its dreamy passages, Soreys 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.
º→ According to Fred Lerdahl, under whom Sorey is studying at Columbia University: “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 brings together formal classical composition and improvisation, staking new musical ground in the process. :: http://pirecordings.com/
º→ Tyshawn Sorey is an active composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across an extensive range of musical idioms. As a percussionist, trombonist, and pianist, Tyshawn has performed and/or recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with artists such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve Coleman, Butch Morris, Peter Evans, Misha Mengelberg, John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Wadada Leo Smith, Dave Douglas, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lehman, and Tim Berne, among many others. Tyshawn’s work has been favorably reviewed in Traps, National Public Radio, JazzTimes, The Village Voice, The Wire, The New York Times, Modern Drummer, The Wall Street Journal, and Downbeat Magazine.
º→ As a scholar, Tyshawn received his B.M. in Jazz Studies and Performance from William Paterson University in 2004, where he studied under John Riley, James Williams, and Kevin Norton, while concurrently studying composition with Anton Vishio and John Link, in addition to working in various settings under Peter Jarvis, director of the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble. In 2009, Tyshawn began his studies with composer–performers Anthony Braxton, Jay Hoggard, and Alvin Lucier, which culminated in earning his M.A. in Composition from Wesleyan University. He is currently a Faculty Fellow in Columbia University’s Doctor of Musical Arts program with a concentration in Composition, studying primarily under George Lewis. Sorey has also conducted and participated in various lectures, panel discussions, and master classes on improvisation, composition, and critical theory at venues such as the Chamber Music America conference in New York City, International Realtime Music Symposium in Norway, Hochschule für Musik Köln, School of Improvisational Music, Musikhochschule Nürnberg, Berklee College of Music, Birmingham Conservatory of Music in England, The Stone in New York City, Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and Cité de la Musique in Paris.
º→ As a composer, Tyshawn has composed over 160 works of all genres to date and received commissions from Van Lier Fellowship, Roulette, and most recently the International Contemporary Ensemble, whose large–scale work will premiere in its entirety in November 2012. Tyshawn is currently a private instructor in composition and improvisation for The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Improvisational Music.
By KARL ACKERMANN, Published: September 30, 2014 | Score: *****
º→ From an early age composer/drummer/educator Tyshawn Sorey has found creative outlets in not just music but in painting and literature as well.
º→ Never one to compartmentalize his own imagination, he has enthusiastically explored blues, gospel, classical and music for dance so it seems quite natural that his current music defies categories. Whether listening or writing, he takes a non–judgmental approach to the way he engages with music, preferring possibilities over prescription. Sorey has recorded or performed with a veritable who’s–who of modern music including trumpeters Wadada Leo Smith and Dave Douglas, saxophonists Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and Tim Berne, and pianists Muhal Richard Abrams, Vijay Iyer to name just a few.
º→ Following Sorey’s highly acclaimed Oblique — I (PI Recordings, 2011), the four long compositions that make up Alloy represent something of a shift in focus to a coexistence of established structures and improvisations where melodies are fleeting but dramatically impactful. Sorey is joined by the superb pianist Corey Smythe who has travelled in similar musical circles as well as performing to outstanding reviews with classical violinist Hilary Hahn at the Kennedy Center. Bassist Christopher Tordini rounds out the trio after being part of Sorey’s quintet on Oblique — I. No stranger to cutting-edge drummers, Tordini has worked with Jim Black, saxophonists Greg Osby and Steve Lehman and a number of prominent regulars on the New York downtown scene.
º→ Alloy is a democratic endeavor though Smythe is often at the audible center of these works all of which have the feel of improvised tonal experiments. “Returns” begins in near silence but quickly becomes a free form exercise before returning to a minimalist setting. Melody doesn’t so much develop as it does layer on subtle texture without diverting from the core pattern; the drive is always subtle with only enough tension to give pause to the possibility of a more volatile reaction. The energetic flow of “Movement” adds a bit more texture from Smythe before the melody unravels in a brief microburst of trio participation. The polyrythmic “Template” launches somewhere between ambience and furtive scratches and squeaks later joined by an ominous piano. There is the sporadic and deeply resonant bass lead before Smythe takes a more rhythmic turn. Sorey does a masterful job of starting, stopping and directing, carefully filling in the open spaces without over–controlling them. “Love Song” — with its lullaby opening — is dominated by single notes, clusters of notes and broken chords more often hinting at a melody than fully developing one. The extended piece unfolds patiently and with child–like simplicity.
º→ The enigma of Sorey’s compositions is that reiteration of notes, patterns and silences is a key part of these pieces and yet each ends with a complete sense of being uniquely unrepeatable; it is a feeling that this was a once in a lifetime experience. Like the lesser requirements of expressing true emotion and passion Alloy is full of moments that quietly and patiently search for just the right emphasis for these occasions while occasionally being punctuated with provocative twists and turns. º→ This is an astounding recording that has the clean, primal quality of being inside the creative process; it is intelligent, visceral, melodic and essential.
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