One of the most adventurous jazz composers and interdisciplinary musical innovators of his generation, pianist Vijay Iyer is taking an extraordinary leap outside of his comfort zone with his largest work to-date, “OPEN CITY,” which receives its world premiere at Peak Performances, October 4 and 5.
The new work, which is performed in a “big band” format, marks a radical departure for the artist who typically performs as a soloist or with his trio. Borrowing its title from Teju Cole’s culture-rich novel of the same name, “OPEN CITY” features a 20-person band with Cole and poet/rapper Himanshu Suri serving as “occasional” narrators. “OPEN CITY” calls upon the singular musical gifts of the multi-generational ensemble to create the tension between the creativity of the individual musicians and the innovation of the group as a whole. The result is a collaborative effort that simultaneously celebrates the distinct and differing components of a full ensemble.
The all star line-up of musicians features Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes, electronic, Ambrose Akinmusire trumpet; Jonathan Finlayson trumpet; Adam O’Farrill, trumpet; Graham Haynes, cornet, flugelhorn; Steve Coleman, alto sax; Hafez Modirzadeh, alto and tenor sax; Mark Shim, tenor sax; Elena Pinderhughes, flute and vocals; Josh Roseman, bass trombone, tuba; Tyshawn Sorey, trombone, percussion; Mat Maneri, viola; Okkyung Lee, cello; Patricia Franceschy, vibraphone; Rafiq Bhatia, guitar; Harish Raghavan, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Rajna Swaminathan, mrudangam, kanjira.
Vijay Iyer, a Grammy-nominated composer-pianist, has received much recognition for his original talent that most recently includes an unprecedented “quintuple crown” in the 2012 DownBeat International Critics Poll (winning Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year, and Rising Star Composer categories), a “quadruple crown” in the JazzTimes extended critics poll (winning Artist of the Year, Acoustic/Mainstream Group of the Year, Pianist of the Year, and Album of the Year), Pianist of the Year Awards for both 2012 and 2013 from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international pianist.
Iyer has released 17 albums as lead musician, including Accelerando (2012), voted #1 Jazz Album of the Year for 2012 in three critics’ polls, and Historicity (2009), a 2010 Grammy nominee for Best Instrumental Jazz Album and named #1 Jazz Album of 2009 by various media and critics’ polls. Other honors include the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, the Greenfield Prize, the Alpert
Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and numerous composer commissions.
Iyer also received an interdisciplinary PhD in the cognitive science of music from the University of California, Berkeley, and has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has taught at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and The New School and is the director of The Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. In January 2014 he will join the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University as the first Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts.
Vijay Iyer will be leading Montclair State University’s seventh annual public forum on the state of the arts as viewed by contemporary artists and prominent thinkers on October 2 at 7PM. The discussion reconsiders our relationship to music as an active experience that draws on a complex of physical, social, and cultural awareness, and will be free to the public, but requires tickets for admission.