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Vijay Iyer Trio: Jazz At Its Finest And Friskiest

Hip-hop aficionados will recognize "Mystic Brew" as the source material for A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation," in which Ali Shaheed Muhammad exhumed Ronnie Foster's then-obscure 1972 soul-jazz tune. In "Mystic Brew (Trixation Version)," pianist Vijay Iyer at once returns the song to its jazz roots and infuses it with modernity.

Iyer's rendition takes a decidedly modern approach to jazz, as the pianist begins by pecking out the hypnotic melody in a staccato fashion. Soon, bassist Stephan Cump and Marcus Gilmore enter, laying down a groove that hints at New Orleans' second-line rhythms before quickly giving way to intricate syncopations that suggest M-BASE.

Iyer embellishes his melodic improvisations with rumbling tremolos, cascading asides and tricky two-handed orchestral interplay, while the rhythm section slips in a suspenseful rubato flow that slows the momentum unexpectedly, displaces the kick beat, slyly propels the beat in front of Iyer's pianism and then proceeds forward. The result is jazz for the hip-hop generation, at its finest and friskiest.

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John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.