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Concert Review: Vijay Iyer Trio with Special Guest Robert Pinsky/PoemJazz

Cambridge collaboration is experimental but embraceable

Vijay Iyer (l.) with Robert Pinsky, Cambridge, Mass. 3/14
Vijay Iyer and Robert Pinsky, Cambridge, Mass. 3/14
Vijay Iyer, piano, with Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, Cambridge, Mass. 3/14

Vijay Iyer’s appointment to the music faculty at Harvard University hadn’t been announced when the Celebrity Series of Boston booked his trio and former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky to perform together at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. But when the event took place March 14, it doubled as a highly impressive, albeit accidental, welcome-to-town party for Iyer.

The duo of Iyer and Pinsky, who has taught for years across the Charles River at Boston University, opened the festivities. Both men have significant experience coupling poetry with jazz. Pinsky’s PoemJazz project with pianist Laurence Hobgood was released as an album in 2012, and his training as a saxophonist and deep love of jazz fuel the unmistakable musicality of his work. Iyer has collaborated on projects with the late, great Amiri Baraka and the hip-hop artist Mike Ladd, the latter pairing having produced three albums, among them last year’s Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project.

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