By now, there can be no doubt that pianist-composer Iyer stands among the most daringly original jazz artists of the under-40 generation – Howard Reich the Chicago Tribune
The American-born son of Indian immigrants, Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) is a self-taught creative musician grounded in American jazz and popular forms, and drawing from a wide range of Western and non-Western traditions. He was described by The Village Voice as “the most commanding pianist and composer to emerge in recent years,” by The New Yorker as one of “today’s most important pianists… extravagantly gifted,” and by the L.A. Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star.”
Most recently, in the Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards, Iyer was named the 2010 Musician of the Year, an honor previously given to Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, and Dave Holland.
The breadth and depth of Iyer’s recorded output defy any simple description. His music has covered so much ground at such a high level of acclaim that it is easy to forget that it all belongs to the same person. In August 2010 he releases Solo, his first solo piano album, covering an astonishing range in his most personal statement yet, on the German label ACT Music + Vision. Iyer’s 2009 release, Historicity (ACT), a classic piano-trio set of surprising covers and originals rendered in his signature approach, became one of the most acclaimed jazz albums of the decade. It was chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the Year by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Metro Times, National Public Radio, PopMatters.com, the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll, and the Downbeat International Critics Poll.
Alongside these works sit several vastly different, equally important and groundbreaking collaborations. Among the best known are In What Language? (2004), Still Life with Commentator (2007), and the work-in-progress Holding it Down, three politically searing, stylistically omnivorous large-scale works created by Iyer and poet-performer Mike Ladd (“unfailingly imaginative and significant” – JazzTimes; “powerful narrative invention and ravishing trance-jazz… an eloquent tribute to the stubborn, regenerative powers of the human spirit” – Rolling Stone). On another end of the spectrum, Your Life Flashes (2002), Simulated Progress (2005), and Door (2008) capture the innovations of the experimental collective Fieldwork (“phenomenal… incredible, challenging, and forward-thinking” – All Music Guide). And last but not least, Raw Materials (2006, “a total triumph from beginning to end” – All About Jazz) documents “one of the great partnerships in jazz” (Chicago Tribune) – the duo of Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa. All of Iyer’s albums have appeared on best-of-the-year lists in dozens of major media, ranging from JazzTimes, Jazzwise, Jazzman, Downbeat, and The Wire, to ArtForum, National Public Radio, The Utne Reader, The New Yorker, and The Village Voice.