Vijay Iyer Sextet with Graham Haynes, Mark Shim, Steve Lehman, Stephan Crump & Marcus Gilmore
Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) was described by Pitchfork as "one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today," by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star,” and by Minnesota Public Radio as “an American treasure.” His most recent honors include a 2013 MacArthur fellowship, a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, an unprecedented “quintuple crown” in the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll (winning Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year, and Rising Star Composer categories), a “quadruple crown” in the JazzTimes extended critics poll (winning Artist of the Year, Acoustic/Mainstream Group of the Year, Pianist of the Year, and Album of the Year), the Pianist of the Year Awards for both 2012 and 2013 from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international pianist.
March 2014 marks the release of Mutations, Iyer’s eighteenth album and his debut for the prestigious ECM label: a recording for piano, string quartet and electronics, the first album to document his works for chamber ensembles. His previous release, Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project (2013), is his third collaboration with poet Mike Ladd, based on the dreams of veterans of color from America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was hailed as #1 Jazz Album of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and described in JazzTimes as “impassioned, haunting, [and] affecting.” Two tremendously acclaimed and influential albums, Accelerando (2012) and Historicity (2009), both feature the Vijay Iyer Trio (Iyer, piano; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Stephan Crump, bass), recently described by PopMatters as “the best band in jazz.” Accelerando was voted #1 Jazz Album of the Year for 2012 in three separate critics polls surveying hundreds of critics worldwide, hosted by Downbeat, Jazz Times, and Rhapsody, respectively, and also was chosen as jazz album of the year by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, PopMatters, and Amazon.com. Historicity was a 2010 Grammy Nominee for Best Instrumental Jazz Album, and was named #1 Jazz Album of 2009 in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Metro Times, National Public Radio, PopMatters.com, the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll, and the Downbeat Music International Critics Poll. The trio won the 2010 Echo Award for best international ensemble and the 2012 Downbeat Critics Poll for jazz group of the year.
Previously Iyer was voted the 2010 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, and named one of 2011’s “50 Most Influential Global Indians” by GQ India. His other honors include the Greenfield Prize, the Alpert Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, the India Abroad Publisher’s Special Award for Excellence, and numerous composer commissions. Iyer’s many collaborators include Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Amina Claudine Myers, William Parker, Graham Haynes, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi, Craig Taborn, Ambrose Akinmusire, Liberty Ellman, Steve Lehman, Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Miya Masaoka, Pamela Z, John Zorn, Mari Kimura, Dead Prez, DJ Spooky, Himanshu Suri of Das Racist, High Priest of Antipop Consortium, Karsh Kale, Suphala, and Talvin Singh; filmmakers Haile Gerima, Prashant Bhargava, and Bill Morrison; choreographer Karole Armitage; and poets Mike Ladd, Amiri Baraka, Charles Simic, and Robert Pinsky. His compositions have been commissioned and performed by Bang on a Can All-Stars, The Silk Road Ensemble, Ethel, Brentano String Quartet, JACK Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, Hermès Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Imani Winds.
A polymath whose career has spanned the sciences, the humanities and the arts, Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from the University of California, Berkeley. He has published in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Wire, Music Perception, JazzTimes, Journal of the Society for American Music, Critical Studies in Improvisation, in the anthologies Arcana IV, Sound Unbound, Uptown Conversation, The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010, and in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Iyer has taught at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and the New School, and he is the Director of The Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, an annual 3-week program in Alberta, Canada founded by Oscar Peterson. Iyer recently finished a multi-year residency with San Francisco Performances, performing and working with schools and community organizations. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment at Harvard University’s Department of Music, as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts.
Photo: © Ayano Hisa, Hiromi, 2012 Newport Festivals