Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
602

Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd: Still Life with Commentator

Lyn Horton By

Sign in to view read count Views
Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd: Still Life with Commentator The oratorio that we all know is Handel's Messiah. This musical form approaches that of opera. The only difference is that there is no acting and huge performance ethic. An oratorio unfolds a chain of isolated yet interrelated parts that address the overall concept of the piece.

Once again keyboardist Vijay Iyer and vocalist Mike Ladd have collaborated brilliantly to author the oratorio Still Life with Commentator. This work illuminates the perils within contemporary global society from the standpoint of the media and information blitz. The recording follows two premiere performances, one in the US and the other in Austria in 2006.

The meaning of every segment of this work is transported with a musical richness that is absolutely perfect. The music is a breathtaking mixture of an acoustic underlayment of piano, cello and percussion with electronic arrays. Every single bit of music not only translates the intended impact of the spoken or sung poetry, but also resonates with great impact of its own.

Iyer has outdone himself in this extraordinary exposition. His versatility extends within the piece from playing the piano to sculpting highly ornamental yet structurally strong, formalized and rhythmic programming and sequencing. From the heartbeat-like pulse that introduces the dramatically edgy vocalization by Ladd to the dense diversified layering that expands and contracts throughout to the very last hint of explosive sound that closes the recording, this music transcends what any other contemporary classical composer could do. Even though the music is composed and not improvised, it is free and flexible and blends inextricably with the moments.

Ladd's poetry pierces with raw pungency. He lets very little escape attention or examination. That is the beauty, intelligence and attraction of his poetry. The poetry intertwines disparate references and correlates them within numerous metaphors.

When combined with the music, the poetry unites with a tempo that renders it unforgettable and haunting. The lyrics are themselves enlivened by the diversity of singers. The vocal intonations constantly vary when they come from female, African-American, Asian and Japanese vocalists. The chorus offers a way to plug into repeated verses. And the individual singers lend an approach to the lyrics that sets up the way in which the listener will absorb them.

The words and the music cannot be separated. You can read the words in the liner notes but they seem wanting without the music, much like a libretto lies dead on a printed page without being sung. And the music is unimaginable without the words. Iyer has taken Ladd's poetry into his being and transformed starkly political and razor-sharp criticism into a stunning reflection of our jagged cultural disconnections. Ladd and Iyer have humanized our world and remind us to believe in and practice what we know instinctually to be good.

Visit Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd on the web.


Track Listing: Infogee Rhapsody; Edward L. Bernays Flies the Hindenburg; Been There Done That; Cleaning Up the Mess; Lake Aaron; Jon Stewart on Crossfire; Shep's Brook; Riding on the Intro Graphics to Cable News; Man Channel' Fox 'n' Friends; Holocaust Blog; Cyber-Nut Bucolia; Mount Rather; Latex Thumbs-Up; Redemption Chant; Blog Mom's Anthem; The Last Atrocity.

Personnel: Mike Ladd: vocals; Pamela Z: vocals, vocal textures and live electronic processing; Palina Jonsdottir: vocals; Guillermo E. Brown: vocals, electronic percussion and percussion; Masayasu Nakanishi: vocals; Vijay Iyer: piano,synthesizer, programming and live sequencing; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Okkyung Lee: cello.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Savoy Jazz | Style: Beyond Jazz


  • Lude
    Lude
    Vijay Iyer
    Accelerando
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
DVD/Film Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
Read more articles
A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke
A Cosmic Rhythm With...
ECM Records
2016
buy
Break Stuff
Break Stuff
ECM Records
2015
buy
Mutations
Mutations
ECM Records
2014
buy
Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project
Holding It Down: The...
Pi Recordings
2013
buy
Accelerando
Accelerando
ACT Music
2012
buy
Tirtha
Tirtha
ACT Music
2011
buy
Chick Corea Chick Corea
piano
Dave Douglas Dave Douglas
trumpet
McCoy Tyner McCoy Tyner
piano
Andrew Hill Andrew Hill
piano
Greg Osby Greg Osby
saxophone
Fred Hersch Fred Hersch
piano
Lyle Mays Lyle Mays
keyboard

Vijay Iyer Events

Date Event Time Tickets
Sep16Fri Vijay Iyer
SCHAVER MUSIC RECITAL HALL
Detroit, MI
8:00 pm
Sep17Sat Vijay Iyer
Seligman Performing Arts Center
Beverly Hills, MI
8:00 pm
Sep20Tue The Andrew Hill Legacy Project: Andrew Hill's Smokestack
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
7:30 PM
$30
Oct21Fri Vijay Iyer Trio
McCarter Theater
Princeton, NJ
8:00 PM
$65
Mar9Wed Vijay Iyer Sextet
Sanders Theatre
Cambridge, MA
8:00 PM
$

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.