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Vijay Iyer: Mutations

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There are times when it's possible to chart an artist's success through his association with record labels. Vijay Iyer--who, over the past 20 years, has built a reputation for genre-defying, forward-reaching music--spent the early part of his career on independent US labels including the highly regarded Pi Recordings, Savoy Jazz and Sunnyside Records. But it was with his move to Germany's ACT Music label and a series of trio and solo recordings, including the Grammy-nominated Historicity (2009), that the pianist began to garner even more attention. Still, as good as his four ACT recordings were, looking at the label's overall ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Vijay Iyer Solo at San Francisco Performances

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Vijay Iyer San Francisco Performances San Francisco, CA November 16, 2013 Polymath, pianist, arranger, composer, Grammy nominee, creative program director, a doctorate holder, the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur “genius" fellowship, the recipient of a groundbreaking “quintuple crown" in the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll, as well as a “quadruple crown" in the JazzTimes extended critics poll. Soon to be a Harvard Professor. Declared Pianist of the Year for both 2012 and 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association. Winner of the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy") for best international pianist. Who ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer / Mike ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project

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It's been nearly 70 years since the film The Best Years Of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture (1946). The story revolved around three returning WWII veterans and their difficulties adjusting to civilian life. While those veterans came back to the economic powerhouse that was the United States, today's returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars find a country with the same meager prospects that perhaps drove them to enlist in the first place. Although the government has done it's best to shield civilians from seeing coffins returning or video of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando

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On the surface, Accelerando follows the same basic format as Historicity (ACT Music, 2009), the debut of pianist Vijay Iyer's working trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Though once again divided between Iyer's complex originals and some surprising covers, this eclectic sophomore session attains an even greater sense of cohesion than its predecessor, courtesy of a common aesthetic denominator. As Iyer states in the liner notes “This album is in the lineage of American creative music based on dance rhythms." From the rhapsodic crescendos of the pianist's “Optimism" to a phantasmagoric deconstruction of Michael Jackson's “Human Nature," ...

DISTRICT JAZZ

Vijay Iyer Trio: Washington, DC, April 30, 2011

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Vijay Iyer TrioSixth & I Historic SynagogueWashington, DCApril 30, 2011 Sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, pianist Vijay Iyer's concert placed his innovative trio in the sumptuous setting of Washington, DC's Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The domed ceilings and intricate décor provided an appropriate backdrop to Iyer's powerfully evocative, enormously creative musical explorations, the serenity and seriousness of the space reflecting the complexity and spiritual clarity of Iyer's music as the repurposing of the building mirrored Iyer's ability to be modern, while maintaining continuity with multiple musical lineages.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer: Tirtha

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A confluence of ideas is encountered in the kinetic and unusual Tirtha, featuring three South Asian luminaries: the critically acclaimed jazz pianist Vijay Iyer; and his equally accomplished trio-mates, guitarist/composer Prasanna, and tablaist Nitin Mitta. Iyer formed the band in 2007 when asked to put together a concert celebrating 60 years of Indian independence. The title (also the band's name) has significance, as “tirtha" (pronounced THEER-tha), is the Sanskrit word for “ford" or “crossing," a shallow part of a body of water that may be easily crossed, as in a pilgrimage near sacred waters. With this mindset, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer: Solo

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Pianist Vijay Iyer may be one of the great ones; only time will tell. The pianist has risen to become a critics' darling, mostly on the basis of his quartet outings, including the much-lauded Reimagining (Savoy Jazz, 2005) and Tragicomic (Sunnyside Records, 2008). He's worked a trio magic, to, -with his piano/saxophone/drums Fieldwork group, on the high intensity Your Life Flashes (Pi Recordings, 20002), Simulated Progress (Pi Recordings, 2005), and Door (Pi Recordings, 2008).All of Iyer's recordings, pre-2009, have featured saxophonists: the innovative Rudresh Mahanthappa on the sets under his own name, and the equally-talented Aaron Stewart and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer: Solo

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Vijay Iyer's trio album, Historicity (ACT, 2009), brought the pianist much critical acclaim and saw him awarded the 2010 Jazz Journalist Association Musician Of The Year. Solo finds Iyer on his own for the first time, on a collection that encompasses jazz standards, a contemporary pop classic and five of Iyer's own original compositions. It's a more thoughtful and reflective album than Historicity but, while it clearly demonstrates Iyer's technical ability on his chosen instrument, it is also a less consistent work. Iyer's disparate choice of material from other writers is fascinating: his re-workings are original and, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer: Solo

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On the heels of being named Musician of the Year in June, 2010, by the Jazz Journalists Association, Vijay Iyer has released his first solo piano recording. Solo comes after the critical success of his trio's Historicity (ACT Music, 2009) and quartet's Tragicomic (Sunnyside, 2008). Iyer is a kind of Renaissance man, with a jaw-dropping biography on his website; it is a wonder how he can accomplish so much. But the much-ness in his life seems to distract from the kind of focus necessary to shape a solo presentation. Iyer likes covers, writing that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer: Solo

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Pianist Vijay Iyer's Historicity (ACT Music, 2009) was among the spellbinders of its year, a 10 track trio album, one half originals, one half covers. Solo makes a return visit to the same playground, its 11 tracks comprising five originals and six covers of tunes written by Duke Ellington ("Black & Tan Fantasy," “La Fleurette Africaine"), Thelonious Monk ("Epistrophy"), Jimmy Van Heusen ("Darn That Dream"), Steve Coleman ("Games") and Steve Porcaro/John Bettis ("Human Nature," for the singer Michael Jackson). This time out, freed up to romp alone in his own pianism, Iyer has made a disc which is, ...

INTERVIEWS

Vijay Iyer: Into The Mainstream

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New York-based pianist and composer Vijay Iyer is a rhythmic explorer whose piano trio album Historicity (ACT, 2009) is a cohesive and vibrant record that carries its creator and his colleagues firmly into the mainstream of modern music. The album stems from, among other sources, a succession of striking piano trio influences such as Duke Ellington's trio recording with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, Money Jungle (Blue Note, 1962), the small group Blue Note recordings by Andrew Hill, and the groundbreaking African Rhythms Trio of Randy Weston. On the way, Iyer's interest in 1970s R&B and funk, classical polytonalists such ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer: Historicity

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Pianist Vijay Iyer's compositions are ferociously paced and fractured with a sense of urgency that informs each note he plays. Historicity's title track opens the record, grabbing the listener immediately with the pianist's unique touch, carrying through on other original compositions such as “Helix"--a ballad on the surface that explodes midway through with frenetic energy. This energy is also felt on his interpretations of other composers. Standouts include his 'versioning' of M.I.A.'s “Galang," which utilizes rhythmic phrases to retain the texture of the original while adding harmonic complexity to the periphery of the piece, reminiscent of Christopher O'Riley's orchestrally full ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity

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There is much that is exciting about pianist Vijay Iyer and almost as much that is irritating. The excitement is in the music and the irritation in the miasma of cerebralization that surrounds it. The most recent instance of the latter comes with the packaging for Historicity. Any album title which requires a fairly lengthy liner note to explain it, and which starts, elliptically and gratuitously, with a quote from Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci's The Prison Notebooks, rings alarm bells. Particularly when the given explanation boils down to nine words of plain English: we are all part of the tide ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity

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The art of the piano trio has enjoyed a healthy renaissance over the past two decades, as a plethora of new stars have ascended the ranks to uphold and advance the tradition. Ethan Iverson, Brad Mehldau, Jason Moran, and Matthew Shipp are just a few of the adventurous younger artists whose notion of the trio is anything but staid, yet firmly linked to the hallowed format's core principles of intimate three-way communication.

Add to this short list Vijay Iyer, whose first proper trio record, Historicity, places him squarely in the company of his peers. As the leader of ...



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