Vijay Iyer with Prasanna & Nitin Mitta, Tirtha

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 12.21.11 in Reviews

Pianist Vijay Iyer had a breakout year in 2009, with his trio album Historicity. That was due in part to its refreshingly eclectic selection — the album included Iyer’s takes on works by M.I.A. and Julius Hemphill — as well as because he and his band can just flat-out play. To his credit, Iyer has since been cautious not to merely repeat that winning formula. After releasing a solo album in 2010, Iyer treated us to this eponymous effort from an altogether different trio, Tirtha, which draws as much inspiration from Indian classical music as anything else. On tablas, Nittin Mitta shows off an impressive range, from subtle accompaniments to get-out-my-way solo passages (as on the close of the longest cut, “Tribal Wisdom”). Guitarist (and sometime vocalist) Prasanna has the single-note sitar-like vibe down, though also provides a bit of ethereal chordal work during the opening of the title track. And then there’s Iyer’s own playing, which pushes the whole enterprise beyond genre exercise or simple fusion, and on toward something beyond category. When was the last time a pianist had two different trios this different — and this good?