Vijay Iyer Sextet with Graham Haynes, Mark Shim, Steve Lehman, Stephan Crump & Marcus Gilmore
Sunday, August 3, 2014 Fort Adams State Park
Photo by Jimmy Katz
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 New Yorker as one of "today's most important pianists... extravagantly gifted... brilliantly eclectic," and by the Los Angeles Weekly as "a boundless and deeply important young star." His most recent honors include a 2013 MacArthur "genius" fellowship, 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.
Iyer has released seventeen albums as a leader; his most recent, 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. His previous album, Accelerando (2012), is the widely acclaimed follow-up to the multiple award-winning Historicity (2009), both featuring 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, andRhapsody, 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 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 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, the Greenfield Prize, the Alpert Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, 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 The Silk Road Ensemble, Ethel, Brentano String Quartet, JACK Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, Hermes 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 been on faculty 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. In January 2014 he will join the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University as the first Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts.
Photos: (left to right) Bobby McFerrin, Robert Glasper, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, John Zorn