For his MusicNOW concert Nov. 13, composer, pianist and MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer will join Wadada Leo Smith — his “hero, friend and teacher” — on their work A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke. The seven-part suite, dedicated to Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), sprang from a New York club date in early 2015. It was later recorded in the studio for ECM.
Previously, Iyer had played extensively with Smith in the trumpeter’s Golden Quartet. “That group’s broad palette included ‘pure’ tones and distorted sound, motion and stillness, melody and noise,” wrote Iyer in the liner notes for the album “A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke” (2016). “In quartet performances, Wadada and I often became a unit within the unit, generating spontaneous duo episodes as formal links. In the process, a space of possibility emerged that introduced me to other systems of music-making.”
On the recording, Smith’s trumpet and Iyer’s piano (and occasional electronics) interact with “sensitivity to tone, texture and space.” Though the suite was “largely shaped in the moment in the studio,” Iyer and Smith first studied Mohamedi’s work and her journals. In their musical response, he and Smith shared “a certain understanding, a certain set of governing ideas.”
The album captures the duo’s improvisational magic, their expressive individuality and the ways in which they can, Smith explained, “merge as a single wave, or a single voice.”
For more information about the MusicNOW program, which also will feature Iyer’s Time, Place, Action and will be presented at the Harris Theater, click here.