Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith
Show: With Jamal Moore on Saturday at Abramson Family Auditorium. Show starts at 8 p.m. capitalbop.com/cbshows. $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
Pianist Vijay Iyer sits atop the jazz world with enormous acclaim, a MacArthur fellowship and an endowed chair at Harvard — but he’s on nobody’s list of the world’s most accessible musicians. Neither is his sometime mentor, similarly acclaimed avant-garde trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith.
The challenge of their music doesn’t fade when they’re brought together on their duet record, “A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke.” But it does create a byproduct of finely honed drama. It’s not that there’s tension between them: Smith’s and Iyer’s playing interlaces beautifully. They share a sense of pacing, suspense and thoughtful choices (even in the moment) of notes and phrases.
Smith will parcel out a long melodic cry, leaving holes in the middle that Iyer doesn’t try to fill; instead, the pianist waits to support the trumpeter’s releases with sympathetic chords that never hurry him along — and often cool his fire. They move together in uncompromising directions, but they leave the audience hanging on urgently to the question of where, and when, those directions may lead. It’s a haunting experience.