June 2007

Vijay Iyer
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 30, 2007Live @ CourthouseToronto
A report by David Fujino (photo of Vijay Iyer taken in June 2006 by Roger Humbert)
In his mid-tempo piece, "The Big Almost", pianist Vijay Iyer was hitting and hitting the same high note.

The aching dissonance and rhythmic tension immediately recalled the percussive keyboard approach of Duke Ellington and Randy Weston, but as the music became a rich, impressionistic tide — and somber pedal tones sounded from within — time itself seemed to slow down and the piece took on an Asiatic, ritualistic air.

Meanwhile, bassist Stephan Crump exhibited a beautiful tone and a consistently lyrical, fresh state of mind in his playing, and the new band member, drummer Justin Brown, happily took on the responsibility of sketching and underscoring the flow of this sonorous music.

As for Rudresh Mahanthappa, his alto represented a very different sound in jazz — it's full and throaty, even in the soprano range — and when he soloed, his lavish, pouring scales showed him to be a truly lucid and searching soloist.

He matches up well with Iyer. Both players work fluently with the dense harmonies and the free tempo sensibility of jazz; also, both work from a rich cultural base of scales, melodies, rhythms, and chants, as in the composition, "Song for Midwood", which is basically an extended chant where chordal passages and a tonal piano interlude serve to bring on, anew, the driven, scalar search of Mahanthappa. The bass is heroic, and the chant-like theme played out to the splash of cymbals.

Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer is an uncompromising and original musician. He composes a layered, creative music which is, in many ways, an extension of African and Asian music — but understand this is not genre music nor World Music mixed with jazz harmonies — not at all.

He's looking for new states of mind so he creates them in his music. He has political and cultural views. Look at his title, "The Big Almost". One can assume he didn't vote for George Bush. It's all there in the music and titles.

Finally, I'm sure that Vijay Iyer visited the quiet place that lies at the heart of music, several times this evening.

It sure sounded like he did.

The musicians
Vijay Iyer — piano
Rudresh Mahanthappa — alto saxophone
Stephan Crump — acoustic bass
Justin Brown — drums
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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