The music on Tirtha is quite different from Vijay's previous releases. However, one thing that remains consistent is Vijay's dramatic, dense, and innovative piano playing. On Tirtha, Vijay teams up with Prasanna (guitar) and Nitin Mitta (tabla) to play traditional Indian music. While the music is technically Indian music and not jazz, Vijay playing gives it the feeling of jazz. The album has some similarities to recent Rudresh Mahanthappa releases, Kinsmen and Apti, in that it features a modern jazz star playing Indian music. However, the mood of the album is a bit different. The lack of a horn, plus the all-acoustic band gives the album more of a meditative, trancelike feel to it. It has a very spiritual quality to it. The tabla of Mitta blends perfectly with Vijay's piano, and the snakelike, almost sitar sounding guitar lines of Prasanna. When I first saw the trio lineup I wondered if the sound would be too thin with only 3 musicians. This concern was quickly dispelled within minutes of listening. Vijay has such a full-bodied sound on the piano; I actually think he is best heard in a trio setting.
Duality - Right off the bat the album gets off to a great start with duality. This is a fantastic composition by Vijay and the combo of rhythmatic textures of the piano lines and tabla are just riveting. Vijay's solo adds an ultra modern sound that fits perfectly over the traditional Indian music backdrop. Prasanna follows it up with a great meandering guitar solo.
Abundance - The mood on this track is quiet, reflective, and subdued. Prasanna is just magnificent on the guitar throughout it. Prasanna's emotion backed guitar solo just builds and builds. Towards the end it almost sounds like something Pink Floyd would have done, yet it fits in perfectly in the Indian context.
Tribal Wisdom - This song starts with Prasana vocalizing the beats in traditional form (I wish I knew what this was called). After this very traditional beginning the song quickly transforms into something more modern, very upbeat, and also rock like. With a backdrop that might get your head bobbing, Prasana assaults some scales with what sounds like a very modal solo.
A must have for Vijay Iyer fans. Also, I think if you are a fan of the recent collaborations of Rudresh Mahanthappa and Rez Abassi, you should give this a try. While it is different, I'm sure you'll like it.