June 2006

Vijay Iyer
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 29, 2006Main StageToronto
Vijay Iyer
by David Fujino with photo by Roger Humbert
Vijay Iyer's piano playing was an impressionistic ebb and flow, and his left hand sounded deep pedal points that made you think of Alice Coltrane.

His special gift for pattern and flow was unfurled in pieces like "Alaska", where alto player Rudresh Mahanthappa soloed firmly from the heart, at times flying suddenly into 'outside' tones. Meanwhile, bassist Stephan Crump played with a lyrical and open spirit and drummer Tyshawn Sorey continually asserted the music's pulse and forward motion.

In "Machine Days", the quartet broke free from the tune's stop-and-start rhythm and emerged, finally, as a series of brisk flurries between Iyer and saxophonist Mahanthappa. The piece ended starkly, with a lone staccato saxophone.

On a critical note, Iyer's piano was severely under-miked this evening, and this made it harder to appreciate his subtle music. Unfortunately, this sound problem wasn't rectified until the second set.

Vijay Iyer is working within the modern jazz tradition. To which he brings his own cultural identity, and a global mentality.

Vijay Iyer
Iyer himself then took a seat in order to hear a 'hero', McCoy Tyner.
Vijay Iyer
by Paul J. Youngman with photo by Roger Humbert
Opening for a living legend cannot be easy; playing the Toronto festival for the first time is no doubt cause for anxiety. Pianist Iyer who is a very accomplished technician was playing as if he were performing in a club. His playing was very delicate, intricate and soft spoken; he was having difficulty making a statement to the audience. Joining Iyer on stage, were his regular working musicians, Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto sax; Stephan Crump, bass; and joining on this occasion, drummer Tyshawn Sorey.
Tyshawn Sorey
Bass player Crump and drummer Sorey made a strong statement. Crump displayed a very clean and classic oriented style of bass playing. The drummer Sorey performed a drum clinic, varying time signatures, using different mallets, brushes, synthetic and wooden sticks to create a pallet of tonal complexity. All eyes were focused on this percussive machine, an incredible talent. You would think that his arsenal of bombastic attacks would exhaust themselves, but he just kept pulling off more fills and accents. The final song “Machine Days” was a frantic number that had Sorey pulling out all the stops. Think incessant hammer drilling and you have an idea of the pace. The complete set was an overwhelming display from a drumming virtuoso.
The band
Vijay Iyer – piano
Rudresh Mahanthappa – alto saxophone
Stephan Crump – bass
Tyshawn Sorey – drums
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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Paul J. Youngman
The Live Music Report

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