On Sunday, November 8, the acclaimed South Asian American jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer will perform original music in two different configurations at Berkeley's historic 1750 Arch Street, now the site of the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT). In the first part of the late-afternoon program, Iyer performs in an improvising duo of piano and live electronics with the innovative computer musician David Wessel. Then, Iyer presents a set of original music with his quartet, featuring the powerhouse alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, bassist Devin Hoff, and drummer Derrek Phillips.
Immediately following Iyer's quartet performance, the group will rush to SFO for a trip to India's JazzYatra, an internationally acclaimed jazz festival in Mumbai (Bombay), where the four will spend a busy week performing. Iyer has written a number of new compositions for the occasion, which the group will perform on Sunday.
The son of immigrants from India, Iyer, 27, treats music as a forum for politicized, thought-provoking ideas. He subtly combines musical and conceptual material from his ethnic heritage with intense improvisational and compositional elements from a variety of African-American musical traditions, resulting in a highly original, bubbling cauldron of jazz textures.
Hailed as a "keyboard visionary" and "one of the finest young musicians currently working in the Bay Area" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Iyer currently resides in Oakland, California, but has traveled to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, Mexico, Senegal, and countless cities in western Europe, both as a leader and as a sideman. He has worked closely with artists such as saxophonist Steve Coleman, trombonist George Lewis, hip-hop innovators Midnight Voices, and the legendary poet Amiri Baraka. This trip will mark Iyer's first time performing in his family's homeland.
In January '98, Iyer released the follow-up to his critically hailed 1995 debut CD, "Memorophilia" (Asian Improv Records AIR 0023). The new disc, entitled "Architextures" (AIR 0034), features the pianist in solo, trio, and octet configurations, collaborating with some outstanding young musicians to create a dazzling array of original music. A recent laudatory article in the New York Times praised the CD's "bracingly expressionist jazz... full of pulsating blues." The East Bay Express calls his new album "superb... a distinctive and adventurous amalgam of music that tells stories, provokes thought, and takes the listener on spirited journeys." The SF Bay Guardian described its way of combining influences as "genius... epitomizing 'new jazz' at its best."
Iyer writes that his new album "crackles with the promise and charisma" of his "most brilliant colleagues." Foremost among these collaborators is the Indian-American alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, whose work combines his Asian and American influences in a similar fashion. An extremely gifted musician with a unique sound and blistering technique, Mr. Mahanthappa has earned praise from jazz greats Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Greg Osby, and Von Freeman as one of the most exciting new voices on the instrument. Together, Iyer and Mahanthappa have presented their cutting-edge duo explorations at various festivals around North America. Based in New York, Mahanthappa will make a rare West Coast appearance to join Iyer for this warm-up gig en route to Mumbai.
David Wessel is Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley where he is Director of CNMAT, a research institute for computer-music applications. He is particularly interested in live-performance computer music where improvisation plays an essential role. He has collaborated in performance with a variety of improvising composers including Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Coleman, Ushio Torikai, Thomas Buckner, Vinko Globokar, Jin Hi Kim, Shafqat Ali Khan, George Lewis, and Laetitia Sonami, and has performed throughout the US and Europe.
This will be one of Iyer's last few Bay Area gigs with his own group for some time, as he is moving to New York at the end of the year. The work of this young artist represents some of the most exciting new music around. Rooted in his unique, hybrid sensibility as an Indian American, Iyer's original artistic vision has earned him a place among the most important up-and-coming talents in creative music.
Sunday, November 8, 1998. 5 pm (note early time!). Vijay Iyer Quartet
(Vijay Iyer, piano; Devin Hoff, acoustic bass; Derrek Phillips, drums, special
guest Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophone) and the Wessel-Iyer Duo (David
Wessel, live interactive electronics; Vijay Iyer, piano). Center for New
Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), 1750 Arch Street between Hearst and
Virginia Streets, Berkeley.