Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) has released more than twenty albums covering remarkably diverse terrain. He 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 newest 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.
The group's upcoming performance will feature material from Far From Over, 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 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.
“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.”
The Los Angeles Times dubs the Vijay Iyer Sextet's jazz stylings as "rambunctious, furiously funky," with "the sort of head-bobbing drive and invention that has landed Iyer on multiple best-of lists over the years."
Experience it for yourself on May 8 in the Shockley-Zalabak Theater—get your tickets HERE.