Firehouse 12  45 Crown Street  New Haven, CT 06510  203.785.0468

Vijay Iyer

Performer's Website

Dubbed one of the "new stars of jazz" by U.S. News & World Report, and one of "today's most important pianists" by The New Yorker, VIJAY IYER [pronounced "VID-jay EYE-yur"] is a forceful, rhythmically invigorating performer who weds a cutting-edge sensibility to a unique sense for compositional balance. Recently in the Village Voice, Gary Giddins described him as "one of the most original and accomplished young pianists in years... Iyer's percussive yet supple keyboard touch is something to marvel at." An exceptional, forward-thinking composer, Iyer draws from African, Asian, and European musical lineages to create fresh, original music in the American creative tradition. His music strikes you as both emotionally expressive and structurally sophisticated, with exuberant improvisations anchored in cyclical rhythmic structures and ringing harmonies.

In 2003 Iyer received the Alpert Award in the Arts, a prestigious year-long fellowship to support his innovative, compelling work. In 2004 he was named Up & Coming Musician of the Year in the Eighth Annual Jazz Awards. Since 2003 he has consistently ranked near the top of the Downbeat Magazine International Critics' Poll in the categories of Rising Star Pianist, Rising Star Composer, and Rising Star Jazz Artist; in 2006 he won the latter two categories. He also received a 2006 Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Iyer is signed to a multi-album deal with Savoy Jazz, who released his quartet album Reimagining in May 2005 to rave reviews. It was listed among the best albums of 2005 in ArtForum,, The Village Voice, The Chicago Tribune, and The Chicago Sun-Times. calls it "his strongest effort yet," and All About Jazz hails it as "an organic, austere consistency of vision and accomplishment that's simply stunning." July 2005 also saw the release of Simulated Progress, the new album on Pi Recordings by the collaborative trio Fieldwork, who were recently described as "a jazz power trio for the new century" on NPR's Fresh Air. Simulated Progress appeared in Best-of-2005 lists in The Village Voice and the LA Weekly, and garnered a SESAC Award for topping the college jazz radio charts. In spring 2006, Raw Materials, Iyer's longstanding duo collaboration with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, released its self-titled album on Savoy Jazz. All About Jazz called it "a total triumph from beginning to end," and it appeared on Best of 2006 lists in the Village Voice and JazzTimes.

Vijay's new collaboration with poet/hip-hop artist Mike Ladd and theater director Ibrahim Quraishi, titled Still Life with Commentator, had its world and European premieres in spring 2006 and its New York premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival in December 2006. The New York Times called the work "gripping" and praised the music's "swirl of ominous textures and hypnotic rhythms." JazzTimes writes, "...these Iyer-Ladd creations are unfailingly imaginative and significant... Still Life is awash in 'post-human' beatmaking but often pulses with lyricism." The album version of Still Life with Commentator is available now on iTunes and will be released in March 2007 on Savoy Jazz Worldwide.

Iyer made his first major impact in winter 2003-04, when he released two very different and highly acclaimed albums: Blood Sutra (Artists House), featuring his acclaimed quartet, and In What Language? (Pi), a groundbreaking collaboration with poet/hip-hop artist Mike Ladd. Both albums continue to receive remarkable accolades in print. Blood Sutra was the highest ranking independent release in the JazzTimes 2003 critics poll top 50, placing 8th overall despite Iyer's relative unknown status. Jazziz wrote, "Not simply a great jazz record, Blood Sutra is a statement of purpose from an artist whose youth stands in contrast to his irrefutable skill." In What Language? received a 4 1/2-star rating in Down Beat magazine, was hailed as "a masterpiece" in Signal to Noise, and was ranked the #1 jazz album of the year in both the Tokyo-based Music Magazine and the major British magazine Jazzwise. JazzTimes recently editorialized, "Dr. Iyer is too damn smart. He's also too damn good to be unnoticed... Genius cannot be ignored."

Previously, his first disc, Memorophilia, recorded when Iyer was 23 years old, was listed by Cadence magazine editor Bob Rusch as one of the ten best albums of 1996, and by A. Magazine as one of "the 15 most interesting sounds of the decade." His follow-up, Architextures, was hailed as "utterly remarkable" in's roundup of the ten best jazz records of 2000, and as "genius... epitomizing new jazz at its best" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Iyer's third release, Panoptic Modes (Red Giant), was listed among the best albums of 2001 in The New Yorker, Jazziz, and The Village Voice, received four stars in The Los Angeles Times and Jazzman, and was called "one of the most exciting albums in recent years" (Jazziz). Your Life Flashes (Pi), the first album by the collective trio project Fieldwork, was listed among the best albums of 2002 in Jazziz, The Wire, The Village Voice, Jazz Review, and The San Francisco Chronicle and was hailed in Signal to Noise as "one of the most thrilling debuts by a new band in recent memory."

The son of Indian immigrants, Iyer was born and raised in upstate New York, where he started violin lessons at the age of three. Soon he was drawn to his sister's piano, where he began picking out melodies at age six. Entirely self-taught as a pianist and composer, he was lured into jazz in his teens, performing original music with his own groups throughout college. His choice of a professional musical career came rather late, after earning a Masters in physics at age 22. Then, as his musical accomplishments multiplied, he still managed to earn an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in music and cognitive science at U.C. Berkeley in 1998. During his pivotal seven years in the Bay Area, he forged key alliances with artists such as Steve Coleman, George Lewis, David Wessel, Miya Masaoka, Liberty Ellman, Imani Uzuri, Elliot Humberto Kavee, Aaron Stewart, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, and he released his first two albums on the pioneering Asian-American creative music label, Asian Improv. In December 1998 he moved to New York City, where he currently resides.

Iyer has traveled worldwide as a leader and co-leader, appearing at festivals and concerts in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America with his various projects, including the Vijay Iyer Quartet; the multimedia performance works "In What Language?" and "Still Life with Commentator" with poet/librettist Mike Ladd; the trio Fieldwork; and Raw Materials, his duo collaboration with Mahanthappa. His recent appearances as a leader/co-leader include international music festivals in Paris, London, Toronto, Prague, Ottawa, The Hague, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Nijmegen, Ulrichsburg, Guelph, Victoriaville, Newport, Burlington, Cheltenham, Montreal, Vancouver, Perth, Melbourne, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Rochester, Verona, and Mumbai; the TBA Festival at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art; Salzburg's Kontracom festival; and performing arts venues including the Smithsonian Institution; the Asia Society, Merkin Hall, Joe's Pub, Symphony Space, and The Kitchen in New York; UNC Chapel Hill's Carolina Performances series at Memorial Hall; The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; The Wexner Center at Ohio State University; The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia; the New World Theater at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; U.C. Berkeley's Cal Performances series; The McCarter Theater at Princeton University; and the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles.

In addition, he has appeared as a featured performer on numerous recordings and tours in Europe, Africa, and Asia with influential saxophonist-composer Steve Coleman's Five Elements, avant-garde trailblazer Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory, trumpet innovator Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet, Black Rock Coalition founder Greg Tate's Burnt Sugar, and legendary poet-activist Amiri Baraka's Blue Ark. Iyer has also joined forces with cutting-edge artists such as Cecil Taylor, George Lewis, Graham Haynes, Butch Morris, Dead Prez, Gerry Hemingway, Liberty Ellman, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, kotoist Miya Masaoka, vocalist Imani Uzuri, percussionist Trichy Sankaran, and hip-hop theater artist Will Power. As a composer-performer, Iyer has received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, Arts International, Creative Capital, Chamber Music America, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and Meet the Composer. He has lectured and published on a range of topics, including cognitive science, improvisation, and performance studies.

Firehouse 12 Performances

Rudresh Mahanthappa Friday, May 18, 2007, 10:00p

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