Compassion is pianist-composer Vijay Iyer’s second ECM release to feature his remarkable trio with bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. For years Iyer led a trio with Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums—the band that made Historicity, Accelerando, and Break Stuff. The newer unit with Oh and Sorey debuted in 2021 with Uneasy, and one piece from that album, the late Geri Allen’s “Drummer’s Song,” reappears in different garb on Compassion, folded into a reading of late tenor master John Stubblefield’s “Free Spirits.” Roscoe Mitchell’s free and loosely lyrical “Nonaah” and Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” (in a rhythmically churning, ’70s McCoy Tyner-esque treatment) signify not just the breadth of Iyer’s influences but the expansiveness of his take on the jazz tradition. Though he’s long made a point of championing the jazz avant-garde, the solo piano track “It Goes” (a contemplative modern blues) and the swinging simmer of “Panegyric” almost seem to nod to the legacy of departed piano greats like James Williams and Larry Willis, underappreciated paragons of the jazz mainstream when Iyer was coming up. “Ghostrumental” and “Tempest” have a funkier, more angular rhythmic bent, with precise compositional demands that never impinge on the trio’s improvisational openness.

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