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Tyshawn Sorey Unveils a 3-Disc Extravaganza

The prolific polymath's most recent work, Pillars, is nearly four hours in length

Tyshawn Sorey
Tyshawn Sorey (photo: John Rogers)

The clock had barely hit 7 a.m. when I phoned up avant-garde composer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Tyshawn Sorey, and he sounded as if he’d already been up hours. He was preparing for a day of teaching at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music, where he’s been a staple every summer for the last six years. But for Sorey, this year’s edition was special. Not only were two of his pieces premiered as part of Banff’s Summer Music Series, but he was also appointed the workshop’s co-artistic director, in tandem with his longtime collaborator, composer/pianist Vijay Iyer. Given this turn of events, the headline of JazzTimes’ last feature on Sorey—“The Maestro,” published two years ago—seems even more appropriate now than it was then.

“It seems like 10 years has passed,” Sorey says when that November 2016 article is brought up. “It’s a very busy time on so many levels, mostly since the MacArthur thing happened”—meaning the MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred to as a “genius grant,” that he received in 2017. “Now I’m doing a lot more writing than performing, which is fine for me because this is what I’ve always wanted to do: exclusively focus on my own music. I’ve always felt that that was necessary for me to move forward in my work.”

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