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Concert Review: Vijay Iyer Duo with Craig Taborn at Montreal Jazz Festival

A match made in piano heaven

Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer at the Montreal Jazz Festival, 2013

Vijay Iyer performed three shows as part of the prestigious Invitation Series at the 2013 Montreal International Jazz Festival. The pianist opened his run in a trio setting, with drummer Justin Brown and bassist Stephan Crump by his side, and then closed with a solo show. Sandwiched in between was arguably the most intriguing offering, a duo performance with fellow pianist Craig Taborn.

The outing, which took place July 5 at the festival’s intimate Gesu Center, definitely lived up to its vast potential, with the two young masters combining talents in curious, yet complementary ways. There are many reasons why we don’t see more jazz piano duo shows. One is simple practicality, since many venues don’t have two pianos on site. Just as significant, however, is that 176 keys can be a lot for some listeners to take, especially if the two players don’t have much of a game plan for how they intend to trade leads. Then there’s the matter of whether the individual styles make for a suitable match. Partnerships should be entered into with a degree of caution, even if both of the candidates are accomplished players in their own right.

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