Saturday, December 19, 2009

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Getting acquainted with Vijay Iyer

This week, let's take a look at some videos featuring pianist Vijay Iyer. Iyer is one of the most talked-about jazz musicians of this year, and will be making his St. Louis debut starting Wednesday, January 20 through Saturday, January 23 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Born in 1971 in Rochester NY, Iyer studied classical violin for 15 years while growing up and earned an undergraduate degree in math and physics at Yale when he was just 20. After moving to California to pursue post-graduate studies in physics at Berkeley, he got seriously involved in the jazz scene in Oakland and eventually shifted his focus to music.

Iyer now is based in New York City and involved in many musical projects, including his own trio, quartet, and quintet; Raw Materials, a duo with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa; the collective band Fieldwork; and the chamber trio Tirtha. He also has worked with a variety of jazz, hip-hop, spoken word and improvised music performers, including Mike Ladd, Amiri Baraka, Steve Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, dead prez, Amina Claudine Myers, Butch Morris, George E. Lewis, Pamela Z, Burnt Sugar, Karsh Kale, Oliver Lake, DJ Spooky, Ethel, and Imani Winds.

Iyer's most recent CD Historicity features his trio and is showing up on many jazz critics' "best of 2009" lists. Today's first clip (in two parts) shows Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Justin Brown performing the title track from the CD in August of this year at the jazz festival in Saalfelden, Germany.

Down below, you can see the electronic press kit for Historicity, with some musical excerpts and comments from Iyer.

Following that, you can see Iyer, Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore in the studio recording their version of "Galang," which is found on Historicity and previously was a hit pop record for rapper/singer M.I.A. (To get a sense of how Iyer and band have transformed the tune, you can check out the rather minimal original version here.)

The final clip is from another trio gig back in 2007, and shows Iyer, Crump and Gilmore performing the pianist's tune "Questions of Agency" at the Stone in NYC.

For more on Iyer, check out this podcast interview, recorded in September for Jason Crane's The Jazz Session site; this review by the New York Times' Ben Ratliff of Iyer's trio gig last month at NYC's Jazz Standard; this recent guest post by Iyer at Destination: Out, in which he discusses some of the specifics of Historicity; and this 2008 interview with Iyer from

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