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Vijay Iyer

Vijay Iyer

Pianist Vijay Iyer is very much aware of his heritage-or rather, heritages. In his music you can hear several heritages in creative tension.

Iyer’s new release, Panoptic Modes (Red Giant), bears, in his words, “multiple imprints of the past.” The streams converging in Iyer’s quartet, anchored by alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, begin with the Indian musical traditions in which his family raised him. For evidence, hear “Invocation,” the lead track, whose compelling theme echoes a Vedic chant, or “Configurations,” which Iyer wrote for the Manodharma trio in which he and Mahanthappa are joined by South Indian master percussionist Trichy Sankaran, and whose rhythmic patterns are derived from that rich musical culture. Iyer points out, however, that “ragas on the piano don’t really work: you can’t capture the right inflection and nuance. So Indian influences in my music are more about rhythmic elements, the implications of a drone or pedal point.”

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