Depending on where you find him, Tyshawn Sorey might appear as a jazz drummer (the Vijay Iyer Trio or the group Paradoxical Frog, with Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis), as a new-music percussionist, a multi-instrumentalist (playing piano and trombone) or as a composer. Like George Lewis (with whom he studied and played) and Anthony Braxton (whose place at Wesleyan Sorey recently assumed), Sorey blurs the lines between categories, particularly between composition and improvisation. On Verisimilitude, he leads what looks like a jazz piano trio, playing drums with pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Chris Tordini. It’s a determinedly orchestral version of that format, like the Australian trio The Necks given to sustained sounds, but the bias here is compositional. These five works by Sorey stretch to a total of seventy-eight minutes, the music sometimes almost glacially slow, and its manner of organization not always immediately evident. It can be meditative, whether solemnly or luminously, and the focus on sonics—Smythe occasionally contributes electronics—gives it a rare richness of texture. Flowers for Prashant highlights Tordini’s rich arco sound, Contemplating Tranquility Sorey’s own command of metal percussion.
The longest piece, the thirty-one-minute Algid November, is spare and extended to dream-like lengths, initially an alternation of low- and middle-register piano notes, randomly punctuated by solitary bass tones and an occasion cymbal tap. Events become denser around the eight-minute mark, sparked by Sorey’s subdued flurries, and then rise in intensity for a few minutes before pedaling back. This oscillating pattern defines the music, which at times resembles the near stillness of Morton Feldman, at others Paul Bley’s introspective musings.