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Vijay Iyer

Dubbed one of the “new stars of jazz” by U.S. News & World Report, and one of “today’s most important pianists” by The New Yorker, Vijay Iyer is a singular talent – a forceful, rhythmically invigorating performer who weds a cutting-edge sensibility to a unique sense for compositional balance. In a Village Voice feature on Iyer, Gary Giddins wrote, “He has aligned himself with the percussive school of jazz piano… but he doesn’t sound like any of them. His sound is his own, and you would recognize it in a blindfold test.” An exceptional, forward-thinking composer, Iyer draws from African, Asian, and European musical lineages to create fresh, original music in the American creative tradition. His music strikes you as both emotionally expressive and structurally sophisticated, with exuberant improvisations anchored in cyclical rhythmic structures and ringing harmonies. He recently received the 2003 Alpert Award in the Arts, a prestigious year-long fellowship to support his innovative, compelling work.

The son of Indian immigrants, Iyer was born and raised in upstate New York, where he started violin lessons at the age of three. Soon he was drawn to his sister’s piano, where he began picking out melodies at age six. Entirely self-taught as a pianist and composer, he was lured into jazz in his teens, performing original music with his own groups throughout college. His choice of a professional musical career came rather late, after earning a Masters in physics at age 22. Then, as his musical accomplishments multiplied, he still managed to earn an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in music and cognitive science at U.C. Berkeley in 1998. He then made a beeline for New York City, where he currently resides.