StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Vijay Iyer's continuing evolution


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This week, let's peruse some videos featuring pianist Vijay Iyer, who will return with his trio to perform Wednesday, November 30 through Saturday, December 3 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Iyer, who last played St. Louis in January 2010 at the Bistro, has become one of the most acclaimed jazz musicians of the last decade, having won DownBeat's “Artist of the Year" award in 2016, 2015 and 2012, plus a whole trophy room's worth of other prizes.

One of those honors was a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “genius grant"), which, along with Iyer's appointment in 2014 as a professor at Harvard University and his participation in various challenging multi-disciplinary projects, has earned him a reputation as one of the more cerebral performers in jazz, even as his albums Historicity (2009) and Accelerando (2012) have enjoyed strong sales- for jazz, anyway- and popular approval.

The pianist's most recent recordings include 2015's Break Stuff, which showcases his long-running trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore (drums), and this year's A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke, a collaboration with trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith.

Since his last St. Louis appearance, Iyer also has expanded his horizons with works such as Mutations, a 2014 recording featuring Iyer’s music for piano, string quartet and electronics, and Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi, a score to a film by Prashant Bhargava that was performed by the new music group International Contemporary Ensemble.

You can see the Vijay Iyer Trio in action up above in a video performance they did last year for NPR's “Tiny Desk Concert". After the jump, there are two clips recorded earlier this year at Bimhuis Amsterdam, in which Iyer and company perform “Combat Breathing" and “Taking Flight/Wrens."

That's followed by a complete show recorded in May 2015 at NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art for NPR's “Jazz Night in America".

The last two videos, both from 2014, feature extended interviews with Iyer. The first shows the pianist conversing with Monica Hairston O'Connell, the executive director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago. In the second, Iyer is interviewed by Matei Georgescu, a Romanian psychologist and educator with an interest in zen Buddhism.

For more about Vijay Iyer, read the interviews with him published this year in The New Yorker, Guernica, and Keyboard magazine.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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