Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) has been 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.” The New York Times has stated, “There’s probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output of the pianist Vijay Iyer.”
The Vijay Iyer Sextet is a group of generation-defining, virtuoso improvisers – horn players Graham Haynes, Steve Lehman and Mark Shim alongside rhythm partners bassist Stephan Crump and one of a revolving cast of stellar drummers - Tyshawn Sorey, Marcus Gilmore, and Jeremy Dutton - who leverage a wealth of jazz history even as they push it boldly forward. The music ranges from the thrillingly explosive, to the cathartically elegiac; with melodic hooks, entrancing atmosphere, rhythmic muscle and an elemental spirit all part of the allure. Iyer has been working with the members of this sextet for close to 20 years, in a number of different configurations, and Far From Over, Iyer's 2017 ECM Records release represents something of a culmination of that work, while also showing Iyer reaching a new peak, furthering an already prolific and diverse artistry.
Far From Over was recorded at New York City’s Avatar Studios, with Manfred Eicher producing. The critical response to the record has exceeded even the tremendous response that Vijay has had through the years. Far From Over ranked #1 in National Public Radio's annual Jazz Critics' Poll, surveying 157 critics. The record was named among the best jazz albums of the year in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Slate, and The New York Times, and also among the best albums of the year (all categories) in Rolling Stone. Jazz Times has Vijay as “Artist of the Year” on both their Critics’ Poll and their Readers’ Poll, with him also landing as “Pianist of the Year”, and the Sextet at #2 Best Group in that Critics’ Poll.
Throughout Far From Over, the pianist plays off the melodic-rhythmic possibilities of the material in a characteristically engaging way. His orchestration of the horns is both textural and exciting, but in creating his sextet music, Iyer tends to “build from the rhythm first, from the identity of the groove,” he explains. “Many of the rhythms come from folk music – from West African drumming or Indian classical music, and South Indian folk rhythms.
Iyer sees this music as aiming to “transform” the listener, with an eye towards the especially troubled socio-political climate in which this music is being made. Iyer explains: “There’s a resistance in this music, an insistence on dignity and compassion, a refusal to be silenced. The music can hit hard while also having a searching quality, a yearning – which is basically a blues aesthetic that has been abstracted and then embodied in different ways by the different players in the group. There’s a defiance there, though it’s balanced by a unity the sextet achieves. Defiance and unity, somehow together – that’s the sound this band captures to me. Joy and danger – that spectrum of possibilities is in there, too.”
Iyer has been voted DownBeat Magazine's “Artist of the Year” four times - in 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2012. He was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, with joint affiliations in the Department of Music and the Department of African and African American Studies.
Iyer has released more than twenty albums covering remarkably diverse terrain, most recently for the ECM label. His latest is The Transitory Poems (2019) in duo with pianist Craig Taborn. Preceding that release was Far From Over (2017) with his sextet, and before that were the ECM releases A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (2016), a collaboration with Iyer’s "hero, friend and teacher," Wadada Leo Smith; Break Stuff (2015), featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio; Mutations (2014), featuring Iyer’s music for piano, string quartet and electronics; and Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (2014), the score to a film by the late Prashant Bhargava, performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble.
Iyer's compositions have been commissioned and premiered by Cal Performances, Tanglewood Music Festival and The Ojai Festival for violinist Jennifer Koh; Bang on a Can All-Stars; The Silk Road Ensemble; The Orpheus Ensemble and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Ethel; Brentano Quartet; Brooklyn Rider; Imani Winds; American Composers Orchestra; International Contemporary Ensemble; Chamber Orchestra Leopoldinum; and Matt Haimovitz. Iyer has performed, recorded, and collaborated with musical pioneers Steve Coleman, George Lewis, Butch Morris, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Steve Lehman, Craig Taborn, Oliver Lake, Ambrose Akinmusire, Tyshawn Sorey, Matana Roberts, poets Amiri Baraka and Mike Ladd, novelist Teju Cole, and rapper Himanshu Suri.
Iyer is the Artistic Director of The Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, the 2015-16 Artist-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Musical Director for the 2017 Ojai Festival. He holds a doctorate in music cognition from the University of California, Berkeley, and his writings have appeared in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, Wire, Music Perception, JazzTimes, Journal of the Society for American Music, Critical Studies in Improvisation, and The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. He is a Steinway artist.
“The new album from USA’s best jazz artist is a five-star masterpiece”. - Helsingin Sanomat (Harri Uusitorppa - Finland) September 2017
"Spine-tingling jazz for heart, head and feet." - 5-star review in The Guardian (John Fordham) August 2017
"If you're looking for the shape of jazz to come, here it is...the sturdiness of its design and the passion of its execution make [Far From Over] 2017's jazz album to beat." - Rolling Stone (Hank Shteamer) August 2017
“Iyer...brings together a dream team of cutting-edge improvisers and turns them loose on a set of new pieces that combine proggy intricacy, elegant drama and breakneck rhythmic thrust.” - Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums of 2017
“This is a band for the ages.” - San Diego Union-Tribune (George Varga) June 2017 (re: Vijay Iyer Sextet)
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This project is made possible by the support of the Indiana Arts Commission, Arts Illiana and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
- Occurs Friday, November 15th, 2019 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm