Desert Island Jazz
Vijay Iyer (2002)

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Voted the #1 Rising Star Jazz Artist and #1 Rising Star Composer in the Downbeat Magazine International Critics' Poll for both 2006 and 2007, VIJAY IYER was described in The Village Voice as "the most commanding pianist and composer to emerge in recent years." The son of Indian immigrants, he is a largely self-taught creative musician grounded in the American jazz lexicon and drawing from a range of Western and non-Western traditions. His widely acclaimed recordings include Panoptic Modes (2001), Blood Sutra (2003), Reimagining (2005), and Tragicomic (2008) with his trio/quartet ("a formidable force... startlingly effective and unflinchingly forward-looking... one of the great rhythm units of the day" - Chicago Tribune); Your Life Flashes (2002), Simulated Progress (2005), and Door (2008) with the experimental three-piece unit Fieldwork ("a jazz power trio for the new century" - NPR's Fresh Air); Raw Materials (2006) in his longstanding duo with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa ("a total triumph from beginning to end" - All About Jazz); and In What Language? (2004) and Still Life with Commentator (2007), his large-scale works in collaboration with poet-performer Mike Ladd ("unfailingly imaginative and significant" - JazzTimes).

Iyer's recent engagements as a composer-performer-bandleader include the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Asia Society, Merkin Hall, Zankel Hall, The Kitchen, and the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City; the Painted Bride Art Center and the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia; the New World Theater at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the TBA Festival at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art; the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles; Memorial Hall at UNC Chapel Hill; Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University; the Wexner Center at Ohio State University; The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Buffalo's Albright Knox Gallery; the McCarter Theater at Princeton University; the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit; Cal Performances at U.C. Berkeley; and international music festivals in Paris, London, New York, The Hague, Rotterdam, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Toronto, Ottawa, Cheltenham, Ljubljana, Nijmegen, Ulrichsburg, Victoriaville, Guelph, Atlanta, Newport, Montreal, Vancouver, Perth, Melbourne, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Rochester, Verona, and Mumbai.

As a composer/performer, Iyer has received commissioning grants from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund (2000, 2001, 2005), the New York State Council on the Arts (2002), Creative Capital Foundation (2002), Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust (2002, 2004), American Composers Forum (2005), Chamber Music America (2005), and Meet The Composer (2006). He received the prestigious 2003 CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, the 2004 Up & Coming Musician of the Year Award in the Eighth Annual Jazz Awards, a 2006 Fellowship in Music Composition from New York Foundation for the Arts, and a 2007 Artist Residency at Harvestworks.

Iyer's first orchestral work, Interventions, was commissioned and premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in March 2007 under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies for the ensemble's 30th anniversary gala concerts. It was praised by Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times as "all spiky and sonorous," and David Patrick Stearns of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the piece "immediately proclaimed its importance." Peter Burwasser wrote in the Philadelphia City Paper, "[Iyer] brings it off with a heft and dramatic vision and a daring sense of soundscape."

Other concert works include Mutations I-X (2005) commissioned and premiered by the string quartet Ethel, and Three Episodes for Wind Quintet (1999) written for Imani Winds. He also created the music for Betrothed (2007), an original theater/dance work by director Rachel Dickstein from stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Anton Chekhov, and S. Ansky; Variety praised "the ravishing live accompaniment of Iyer's sophisticated, raga- and jazz-influenced score" and The New Yorker wrote that "Vijay Iyer's liquid music shimmers throughout." In 2007 Vijay also co-created the score for the esteemed Ethiopian-American filmmaker Haile Gerima's forthcoming feature, Teza.

Iyer has collaborated in performance and on disc with a wide range of contemporary artists, including Steve Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, Amiri Baraka, Wadada Leo Smith, Dead Prez, Amina Claudine Myers, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Miya Masaoka, Trichy Sankaran, Samir Chatterjee, Pamela Z, Imani Uzuri, Will Power, Suphala, Dafnis Prieto, Burnt Sugar, Karsh Kale, Ibrahim Quraishi, DJ Spooky, John Zorn, and many others.

A polymath whose work has spanned the sciences, arts, and humanities, Iyer holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics from Yale College, and a Masters in Physics and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Technology and the Arts from the University of California at Berkeley. He was chosen as one of nine "Revolutionary Minds" in the science magazine Seed, and his research in music cognition has been featured on the radio programs This Week in Science and Studio 360. He has given master classes and lectures in composition, improvisation, cognitive science, jazz studies, and performance studies at New York University, The New School University, California Institute of the Arts, Columbia University, Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, and the School for Improvisational Music, among others. His writings appear in Music Perception, Current Musicology, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Journal of the Society for American Music, and the edited anthologies Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia Univ. Press) and Sound Unbound (MIT Press). He is a Steinway artist.
Pick Artist Album Song Label
# 1 Thelonious Monk Solo Monk I'm Confessing (Columbia)
# 2 Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies Who Knows? (Capitol)
# 3 Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach Money Jungle Fleurette Africaine (Blue Note)
# 4 Sudha Ragunathan San Marga (Tamil Devotional Songs) Swami Nan Undran (Amutham)
# 5 John Coltrane Interstellar Space Venus (Impulse)
# 6 Sun Ra St Louis Blues St Louis Blues (Improvising)
# 7 Andrew Hill Smoke Stack Smoke Stack (Blue Note)
# 8 Mustapha Tettey Addy and the Obonu Drummers The Royal Drums of Ghana Besrami (Welt Wunder)
# 9 Cecil Taylor Silent Tongues Abyss / Petals and Filaments / Jitney (Freedom)
         
Book The collected short stories of Jorge Luis Borges
         
Luxury Item Badam Halwa (a South Indian dessert)
Alternate Picks/Not Broadcast
Alt 1 Geri Allen Homegrown N/A (Minor Music)
Alt 2 Art Ensemble of Chicago Fanfare for the Warriors Nonaah (Koch)
Alt 3 Cecil Taylor Garden Pemmican (hatART)
Alt 4 Randy Weston Blues for Africa N/A (Freedom)
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