2013 Red Bull Music Academy, Undead Music Festival
A Night Of Improvised Round Robin Duets: Red Bull Music Academy Special In association with Undead Music
?uestlove, Andrew Bird, Andrew W.K., Bernie Worrell, DJ Spinna, Don Byron, Dosh, Erik Friedlander, Glenn Kotche, James Chance, Joe Lovano, JULIA HOLTER, Kim Gordon, Mary Halvorson, Matana Roberts, Robert Glasper, Roy Hargrove, Thundercat, Vijay Iyer, Jameszoo
317 Clermont Ave
Brooklyn, NY, 11205
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM (event ends at 11:59 PM)
This event is 18 and over
A Night Of Improvised Round Robin Duets
The format? Simple. One musician starts a solo improvisation lasting five minutes. Another musician then joins him for five minutes of duo improvisation. After those five minutes, musician #1 leaves the stage and musician #3 joins musician #2 for another five minutes, and so on and so forth for two hours. The music? Expect the unexpected. A once-in-a-lifetime experience with 20+ artists from jazz, electronics and everything in between, curated by the Red Bull Music Academy, with Search & Restore and BOOM Collective, the creative minds behind the acclaimed Undead Music Festival.
?uestlove (pronounced "Questlove") is the stage name of Ahmir Khalib Thompson, born January 20, 1971 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an African-American musician, DJ, Journalist, and record producer, best known as the drummer for hip-hop band The Roots. ?uestlove's peerless drumming, production and engineering work is regarded bar none by music critics as some of the most innovative work seen in Urban Music. He has also produced for artists such as Common and D'Angelo and member of the production teams Grand Negaz and The Grand Wizzards.
Thompson's father was Lee Andrews of Lee Andrews & the Hearts, a 50s doo-wop group. His parents did not want to leave him with babysitters, so took him on tour with them. He grew up in backstages of doo-wop shows, and began drumming at the age of two. By the age of seven, Thompson began drumming on stage at shows, and by 13, had become a musical director.
As a teenager, ?uestlove's parents enrolled him at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. By the time he graduated, he had founded a band called The Square Roots (later dropping the word "square") with his friend Tariq Trotter (Black Thought). ?uestlove's classmates at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts included Boyz II Men, jazz bassist Christian McBride, and jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco.
?uestlove began performing on South Street (akin to Greenwich Village and Haight Ashbury) in Philadelphia using drums, while Tariq rhymed over his beats and rhythms.
The Roots' roster was soon completed, with ?uestlove on percussion, Tariq Trotter and Malik B on vocals, Josh Abrams (Rubber Band) on bass (who was replaced by Leonard Hubbard in 1994), and Scott Storch on keyboards. While the group was performing a show in Germany, they recorded an album entitled Organix, released by Relativity Records in 1993.
The group continued recording, releasing two critically acclaimed records in 1995 and 1996, Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife, respectively. In 1999, The Roots entered mainstream pop consciousness with "You Got Me" (featuring Erykah Badu); a song which would earn the band the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for 2000. ?uestlove shines in the final minute of this song as he unleashes a massive drum n' bass groove over the last chorus. The song helped fuel the success of their Things Fall Apart album which has since been hailed as a classic, eventually selling gold. The group went the experimental route and returned in 2002 with the rock-influenced Phrenology, which also went gold. Two years later, The Roots released The Tipping Point, which contained a more mainstream sound, due to demands from Geffen records. The album did not sell very well (400,000 copies), although ?uestlove shines in the bonus track remake of George Kranz's "Din Da Da."
Besides being the drummer for The Roots, ?uestlove has also lent his talents to other artists, projects, and productions.
He was the drummer for The Philadelphia Experiment, a collaborative instrumental jazz album featuring musicians from Philadelpia, released on Rope-a-Dope Records in 2001 and the DJ of the compilation ?uestlove Presents: Babies Making Babies, released on Urban Theory Records in 2002. He also served as executive producer for D'Angelo's 2000 album Voodoo, Slum Village's album Fantastic, Vol. 2 and Common's albums Like Water for Chocolate and Electric Circus. Besides the aforementioned albums, he has also contributed as a drummer or producer to Erykah Badu's Baduizm and Mama's Gun, Dilated Peoples Expansion Team, Blackalicious' Blazing Arrow, Bilal's 1st Born Second, N.E.R.D.'s Fly Or Die, Joshua Redman's Momentum, and Zap Mama's Ancestry In Progress, Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine, among others.
Played drums on Christina Aguilera's song "Loving Me 4 Me" for her 2002 album "Stripped". His drum skills were also featured in Joss Stone's cover of the White Stripes' Fell in Love with a Boy.
In 2005, ?uestlove appeared, along with such luminaries as Madonna, Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, and Little Richard, in a television commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone.
In 2006, ?uestlove appeared as himself in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, as well as in the Tupac skit on The Dave Chappelle Show: The Lost Episodes . With the exception of The Fugees, ?uestlove served as the drummer for nearly every performer at the 2004 Brooklyn street concert.
?uestlove was given an Esky for Best Scribe in Esquire magazine's 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue.
?uestlove was one of a handful of musicians hand-picked by Miami Steve Van Zandt to back Hank Williams Jr. on a new version of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for the season premiere (and formal ESPN debut) of Monday Night Football. Along with his fellow Motorola ROKR commercial co-stars Bootsy Collins and Little Richard, ?uestlove's bandmates included Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Charlie Daniels, and Bernie Worrell.
Break It Yourself // An Interview with Andrew Bird //By Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family
RS: Congratulations, Andrew, on the new record! The many instruments and voices on this album glide in and out of the music so naturally that it's easy to imagine the recording took place in some hypnagogic state in which the entire band was completely attuned to the music of the spheres. Who else plays on the record? Was it all as effortless as it sounds?
AB: This is the first time I've trusted a group of musicians to just play what they hear and use our collective instincts. The session that yielded this record was to be no more than a week-long rehearsal. I wanted to show my band these new songs and give us all time and space to feel them out. My long time collaborator Martin Dosh on drums, Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitar and Mike Lewis on bass and tenor came down from Minneapolis. These guys are not mere axemen, they are singular musicians and a total pleasure to be around. We had our front of house engineer Neal Jensen bring his old Tascam 8-track tape machine and Yamaha board (nothing fancy) out to my barn. We rolled tape as we were learning the songs and to our surprise we started nailing the songs by the second take. I think we got a rough, unfussy honesty in this session. A mix of distilled, grounded songs and some wild soloing. This is not the carefully crafted, one-layer-at- a-time puzzle that recording/producing often turns into. This is just musicians playing together in a room.
RS: Your violin has many voices—some as delicate as fine porcelain and others as harsh as howling wind. As a musician do you feel like a medium in a dark room calling out to the spirits?
AB: I think the "I am just a vessel through which music passes" idea is suspect. I do think the melody itself can be inhabited by the musician, but they have to be in sync with one another. That's why I'd usually rather play a new idea that's been in my head all day rather than the single from the new record.
RS: In the song "Eyeoneye" you sing, "No one can break your heart so you break it yourself." Do we need our hearts broken? Do aching hearts sing more sweetly just as those mythic violin bows carved from the bones of drowned beauties were said to make the most dulcet tones?
AB: Well, I think it might be impossible to break one's own heart but I thought it was worth bringing up as a possibility. We all know that massaging your own shoulders or cutting your own hair doesn't feel the same as when someone else does it. The idea that one's heart has to be broken so that one can know love and therefore have lived, that's sort of a backward way of going at life. "Eyeoneye" started when I was having trouble sleeping on tour. Every time I thought about my own eyes they would strain as if they were trying to see themselves (not a pleasant feeling). This got me thinking about other feedback loops in nature, like a teratoma—a kind of tumor that copies other cells in the body like hair and teeth, causing one's immune system to freak out and attack the good teeth and hair cells. If one could break one's own heart it probably wouldn't go much better than this. As to whether broken hearts sing sweeter, I'd say no—music is more often an overflowing of joy for me even when the content is sadness or rage.
RS: In "Danse Caribe" a calypso wave of steel drums happily follows your violin as you sing about "mistaking clouds for mountains." Did you spend months in rags on a deserted beach to write this song or can you write about triumphing over fear and loneliness while rushing through a crowded airport with a rolling bag?
AB: Nothing inspires fear and loneliness like a crowded airport. The island is kind of a theme. Are we all basically alone or are we all connected? This song comes from a story my mom tells about me exiling my stuffed animals from my crib when I was 15 months old in a declaration of autonomy. It seems the conclusion I've reached through nine records worth of songs that deal with this issue of autonomy is that it's overrated. I'll take the comfort of others even if it's an illusion of security.
RS: In "Give It Away" the music circles between sweetness and dissonance, between a lover's tryst in the hay and a dark den for asphyxiation. Are beautiful songs like rays of light, their colors only fully revealed as they fall across dark valleys?
AB: "Give It Away" is a funny song about feeling as if you've taken everything and thrown it into a black hole and the clarity that comes from being so desolate. I wrote this after a show in Belgium where I felt like I had given the last piece of myself to a cold audience. In the van to the airport hotel was when I saw those clouds that looked like mountains in the moonlight and I started laughing. It asks if that energy one gives to an audience or a person is a finite resource.
RS: "Hole in the Ocean Floor" is a lush 8-minute descent that warps and sways as we reach the farthest depths and yet is blissful and expansive even as it plummets. "Near Death Experience" is a tango danced in the cockpit of a crashing airplane. Where do we end up when songs lead us in two directions at once?
AB: That friction between the tone of the music and what the lyrics are saying creates the humor and melancholy that helps us deal with it all. If it's dark on dark my eyes glaze over or I think "are you serious?" In fact, that's what I was thinking of calling this record, I guess because the songs got into a personal territory that, dare I say, are almost confessional, and that naturally makes me a bit uncomfortable.
RS: What about the instrumental number, "Behind the Barn"? Are there some things that can only be said without words? Once someone opens their mouth to sing our expectations and attention span changes. We expect a story. I also think the listener needs a break in a record that is relentlessly from a single person's point of view.
AB: "Lusitania" and "Fatal Shore" both reference historical tragedies but are ultimately about the pain of a broken heart. Must we know the horrors of history before we can fully appreciate the beauty of a single heartbeat?
RS: Remember Tom Hanks' character in the movie "Castaway" being devastated by the loss of his surrogate friend, a soccer ball crudely resemblinga human head? The answer is no, it can happen in a near vacuum. I just thought the sinking of the Lusitania and the Maine were both incidents in naval history that drew the U.S into conflict. When the song is finished you can say it's a metaphor for a wounded codependent relationship, for example.
AB: In "Orpheo Looks Back" it's easy to wonder—can a song itself be lost if we ponder it too closely? Orpheus's beautiful music led him to be torn apart, his severed head thrown into a river. Are you comforted or cautioned by the knowledge that Orpheus kept singing even as his head floated away from his body?
RS: Hmmm. Floating heads? Desert islands? Floating soccer ball heads? Tom Hanks?
AB: As for pondering a song too closely, it doesn't concern me. Take your song with the Handsome Family "Don't be Scared"—there's this guy named Paul who is all alone at home staring out the window and the phone rings just once late at night like a bird calling out reassuring him that he's not alone. No amount of pondering is going to demystify this song. This song always reminds me how little needs to be said to draw in the listener and stoke their imagination.
RS: The last song, "Belles," is mostly bells, crickets and violin. Gradually the music fades until we are left amid a chorus of crickets. It's a mysteriously hopeful way to end a record—expansive as a room with all the windows suddenly opened, but also tinged with longing for the music that has faded away. Is this what it feels like to break your own heart open?
AB: I'll let you know if/when I'm successful.
"I'm trying to make the most exciting music possible."--Andrew W.K.
Age 4 Born in California and raised in Michigan, Andrew W.K. begins classical piano lessons. Encouraged by his parents, he continues to play piano throughout his young life, eventually taking up the drums in his teens and playing in numerous Detroit punk and metal bands.
Age 17 Begins recording solo material.
Age 18 Moves to New York City. Early recordings are circulated among record labels with the help of friends.
Age 20 Andrew plays dozens of shows up and down the East Coast, equipped only with a CD player, keyboard and microphone. Girls Own Juice, a debut EP culled from the early solo recordings, is released on Bulb Records.
Age 21 A second EP, Party Til You Puke, is released, also on Bulb. Andrew plays another series of one-man shows--including two support slots for Foo Fighters and a Belgian arts festival--before returning to New York to focus on forming a band. Members are assembled: Guitarist Jimmy Coup, formerly of Minnesota's Coup de Grace, drummer Donald "D.T." Tardy, late of Obituary, bassist Gregg R., and guitarists E. Payne and Sergeant Frank. The crew moves to Florida. Andrew signs to Island Records.
Age 22 Andrew W.K.'s debut album, I Get Wet, is recorded in Michigan, Los Angeles, New York City, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida. On October 29th, Mercury UK releases the "Party Hard" single, which enters the British charts at 14 as Andrew plays a series of sold out shows and appears on the cover of NME (twice!).
March 26, 2002 I Get Wet is released in the U.S. "This record is about 'not stopping' in every sense of the word, and every aspect of life, and it was created with determination that reflected that. Whatever you do in life, if you go full bore you're bound to get wet--with blood, sweat, urine, semen or girls' lubricant. This record is about cutting in to the heart of existence and getting wet. But it's also about having no fear, experiencing intense emotions--from passionate feelings of love and excitement to the most anger filled, hateful rages, and everything in between--embracing life and other people, and coming together as a party in celebration of possibilities, potential and opportunity. It's an explosion of human life."
"I like things to be strong because I feel that other people can derive strength from that themselves. And I try to reflect that strength, and purity, truth and passion for what we are doing in everything you see and hear. How it's not a fucking joke and that what we mean is very serious to us. I guess you could say this is a cause, but if so, it is a cause that is undertaken simply for its own sake."
Bernie Worrell: How many artists can say they were in on the ground floor of an honest-to-Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame supergroup, all while inventing a completely original and uncanny sound and, in the ensuing years, building a legendary reputation as one of the most versatile hired guns in the music business? True funkateers know the history. From the fat Minimoog bass lines of "Flash Light" and "One Nation Under A Groove" to the percussive piano runs of "Chocolate City" and "Give Up the Funk," Bernie Worrell is synonymous with the legacy of Parliament-Funkadelic; in fact, he's one of the originators of the psychedelic funk sound, having written and co-produced the lion's share of the music going back to Funkadelic's formative years, with an eclectic ear for everything from Chopin to the Chi-Lites.
These days the terms "living legend" or "funk icon" really don't come close to doing him justice. "Funk iconoclast" is probably more apt, considering the breadth of Worrell's contributions to seminal albums outside the P-Funk canon—including Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense and Public Image Ltd's Album, to name two of the more monolithic examples. Keith Richards, Yoko Ono, Bootsy Collins, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Mos Def, Sly & Robbie, Deee-Lite, Bill Laswell and many more have recruited him in the studio and on tour—all for his versatility, vision and feverish creativity whenever he gets his hands on a keyboard.
DJ Spinna is something of an anomaly in music. A humbling example of what it takes to truly succeed within the framework of multiple fields. A steadfast work ethic, an obsessively extensive vinyl library and the willingness to pursue the full extents of his roots (Funk, Soul and Jazz), foundation (Hip-Hop) and future (Electronic/Dance music) with no restraints.
Regarded as one of the most versatile and talented producers/remixers/DJs in today's musical arena. he has produced numerous tracks and remixes for notable artists such as Michael Jackson, De La Soul, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def, Eminem, George Michael & Stevie Wonder.
Also performing/working along side Spike Lee, Q-Tip, Stevie Wonder and many other world talents.
An inspired eclectic, Byron has performed an array of musical styles with great success. Byron first attained a measure of notoriety for playing Klezmer, specifically the music of the late Mickey Katz. While the novelty of a black man playing Jewish music was enough to grab the attention of critics, it was Byron's jazz-related work that ultimately made him a major figure. Byron is an exceptional clarinetist from a technical perspective; he also possesses a profound imagination that best manifests itself in his multifarious compositions. Byron's at heart a conceptualist. Each succeeding album seems based on a different stylistic approach, from the free jazz/classical leanings of his first album, Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992), to the hip-hop/funk of Nu Blaxpoitation (Blue Note, 1998). Byron's composition "There Goes the Neighborhood" was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered in London in 1994. He's also composed for silent film, served as the director of jazz for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and scored for television. Byron was born and raised in New York City, the son of a mailman who also occasionally played bass in calypso bands, and a mother who dabbled on piano. As a child, Byron developed asthma; his doctor suggested he take up a wind instrument as therapy. Byron chose clarinet. His South Bronx neighborhood had a sizeable Jewish population, which partly explains his fascination with Klezmer.
In 2003 Anticon proudly released Dosh's virtuoso debut, Dosh, a loop-building collage of shimmering Rhodes, atypical drumming grounded in groove, field recordings and spontaneous performance (much of the album was pieced together using the 100-plus hours of tape he'd recorded at his parents'). By then he'd developed his untouchable live one-man show (swiveling on his drum stool between a kit, his modified Rhodes piano, a few pots and pans, and a simple looping pedal with a 12-second recording limit), and took to the road. Back in Minneapolis, the city he'd finally recognized as home, Dosh had been teaching drum lessons to children and falling in love on the side. He formed a family with his wife Erin (who he'd wooed by handing her a copy a song called "I Think I'm Getting Married") and her 6-year-old son Tadhg. Soon he'd be composing a track titled "Building a Strange Child," and so they would. Dosh's second full-length, Pure Trash was inspired by his life's most pleasant turns, and though the album was instrumental (minus cameos by Erin, Tadhg, the newborn Naoise, and his students), it emoted all the warmth and anticipation, fear and relief that comes with building a family. Dosh's third album, The Lost Take, showcases the man's unique approach to sound with an expanded musicality and growing guest-list including Andrew Bird and members of Tapes 'N Tapes.
His Fourth record, Wolves And Wishes, adds to the ever-impressing oeuvre with the explorative wonderment of a debut album. To date Dosh has recorded with Bonnie 'Prince' Billie, Fog, Jel, Odd Nosdam, Neotropic, Andrew Bird, Redstart, Vicious Vicious, Poor Line Condition, Lateduster, Why?, the Interferents, members of Tapes 'N Tapes, and just about any Twin Cities band with a collective ear for good taste and experimentation. He has shared the stage with Andrew Bird, Wilco, Why?, Damo Suzuki, Gary Wilson, Golden Smog, Sole, My Morning Jacket, Tapes 'n Tapes, cLOUDDEAD, Sage Francis, Devendra Banhart, Kid Dakota, Alias, Themselves, Peanut Butter Wolf, P.O.S., Happy Apple, Joseph Arthur, Pizza Boys, the Bad Plus, The Jayhawks, Atmosphere, DJ Vadim and many more.
Erik Friedlander is an American cellist and composer based in New York City.
A veteran of NYC's experimental downtown scene, Friedlander has worked in many contexts, but is perhaps best known for his frequent collaborations with saxophonist/composer John Zorn. The LA Times wrote, "Friedlander's performance clearly positions him as the first potential star performer on his instrument."
Friedlander grew up in a home filled with art and music: his father is photographer Lee Friedlander, noted for the cover photographs he took for Atlantic Records. His father's fondness for R&B and jazz helped shape Friedlander's taste in music.
Friedlander started playing guitar at age six and added cello two years later. Apart from his work with Zorn, Friedlander has worked with Laurie Anderson, Courtney Love and Alanis Morissette, and is a member of the jazz/fusion quartet Topaz.
Heralded by The Chicago Tribune for his "unfailing taste, technique and discipline," Chicago based percussionist Glenn Kotche's exploration of rhythm and space began in childhood in Roselle, Illinois. His interests and efforts landed him at the University of Kentucky's highly-regarded percussion program.
Following graduation, Kotche's various stints with groups and ensembles resulted in participation on more than 70 recordings to date. In 2001, he joined the rock band, Wilco. Since joining as drummer/percussionist, Wilco's accomplishments include the gold-selling album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and the Grammy-winning "A ghost is born".
Beyond Wilco, Kotche is also one-third of experimental rock trio, Loose Fur, along with Wilco band mate Jeff Tweedy and post-classical composer/producer Jim O'Rourke, which released their self-titled album in 2003. He is half of jazz, experimental duo, On Fillmore, with bassist Darin Gray. Their latest recording, "Sleeps with Fishes", landed them at the prestigious 2005 Percussion Pan Festival in Brazil.
Kotche has released two previous solo works, "Introducing" and "Next". His third solo effort, "Mobile", will be released in early 2006, on Nonesuch Records.
James Chance, also known as James White (born 20 April 1953 as James Siegfried in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), is an American saxophonist, keyboard player, songwriter and singer.
A key figure in No Wave, Chance has been playing a combination of improvisational jazz-like music and punk in the New York music scene since the late 1970s, in such bands as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Chance and the Contortions, James White and the Blacks (as he appeared in the film Downtown 81), The Flaming Demonics, James Chance & the Sardonic Symphonics, James Chance and Terminal City, and James Chance and Les Contortions.
Chance differed from some of his No Wave compatriots by possessing (and demanding from his band) a certain level of musical skill and talent. His music can be described as combining the freeform playing of Ornette Coleman with the solid funk rhythm of James Brown, though filtered through a punk rock lens.
Joseph Salvatore "Joe" Lovano (born December 29, 1952) is an American post bop jazz saxophonist, alto clarinetist, flautist, and drummer. Since the late 1980s, Lovano has been one of the world's premiere tenor saxophone players[according to whom?], earning a Grammy Award and several mentions on Down Beat magazine's critics' and readers' polls. He is married to jazz singer Judi Silvano.
Lovano was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Sicilian-American parents. His father's family came from the town of Alcara Li Fusi in Sicily, and his mother's family came from Cesarò, also in Sicily. In Cleveland, Ohio, Lovano was exposed throughout his early life to jazz by his father, Tony "Big T" Lovano. John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Stitt were among his earlier influences. After graduating from Euclid High School in 1971, he developed further at Berklee College of Music where he studied under Herb Pomeroy and Gary Burton, then served a big band apprenticeship with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd and the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
Cleveland tenorman "Big T" Lovano was his son's first inspiration, teaching him all the standards, how to lead a gig, pace a set, and be versatile enough to always find work. Joe started on alto at age six and switched to tenor five years later. He attended Berklee college of music before working with Jack McDuff and Dr. Lonnie Smith. After three years with Woody Herman's orchestra, Lovano moved to New York and began playing regularly with Mel Lewis’ Big Band. This influence is still present in his solos. He often plays lines that convey the rhythmic drive and punch of an entire horn section.
In the early ‘80s he began working in John Scofield’s quartet and a bass-less trio with Paul Motian and Bill Frisell. Steeped in the tradition of Ornette Coleman, Motian’s recordings show off Lovano’s avant-garde abilities. Lovano has enduring musical partnerships with John Scofield and Paul Motian, having participated in some of their more noteworthy projects over the years. In 1993, at the suggestion of musicologist Gunther Schuller, fellow Clevelander and bebop guitarist Bill DeArango recorded the album "Anything Went" with Lovano. "He was a major mentor for all of us round here," said Lovano. In 1999, having developed dementia, DeArango was taken into a nursing home, where Lovano visited him on December 26, 2005. Two hours after Lovano left, DeArango died. "He knew we were there," said Lovano. "His heartbeat raced. He knew we were there."
He is currently a jazz artist on the international level. His live work, specifically Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard, garnered a Down Beat "Jazz Album of the Year" award. Other releases include Trio Fascination and 52nd Street Themes. In the late 1990s, he formed the Saxophone Summit with Dave Liebman and Michael Brecker (now deceased, replaced with Ravi Coltrane). He played the tenor saxophone on the critically acclaimed 2007 McCoy Tyner album Quartet. In 2006 Lovano released Streams Of Expression, a tribute to cool jazz and free jazz. He did this with the help of Gunther Schuller who contributed his "Birth Of The Cool Suite". Joe Lovano and Hank Jones released an album together in June 2007 entitled Kids. Lovano also currently leads his Us Five quintet with Esperanza Spalding, James Weidman, Francisco Mela, Otis Brown and occasionally Peter Slavov.
He has been the teacher of Jeff Coffin after the latter received an NEA Jazz Studies Grant in 1991. He currently holds the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance at Berklee College of Music.
Joe Lovano has been playing Borgani saxophones since 1991 and exclusively since 1999. He has his own series called Borgani-Lovano, which uses Pearl-Silver Alloy with Gold 24K keys.
He appears in Noah Buschel's film The Missing Person, with Academy Award Nominees Amy Ryan and Michael Shannon.
In his late Us Five quintet, which consists of two drummers, Otis Brown, III and Francisco Mela, pianist James Weidman and bassist Esperanza Spalding, Loevano has published two albums on Blue Note Records: Bird Songs (2011) and Cross Culture (2012). 
Julia Holter's second album, Ekstasis, is a collection of songs written across the span of three years in Los Angeles, California.
Holter's songwriting stems from a mythological reverence of that which is incomprehensibly beautiful. Her Eating the Stars EP (2007) was a first attempt at musically transcribing this beauty, while discovering the honest enjoyment of unadulterated creativity. The anonymous authorship and shimmering gold detail of medieval illuminated manuscripts particularly inspired the ornately-orchestrated pop song mystery of Stars. Holter's debut album Tragedy (Leaving Records, 2011) embraced similar strains of shimmer, but used sparser textures in a narrative context.
Ekstasis marks a return to the playful searching of Stars, but guided by newly-learned disciplines, slightly better technology, and nearly limitless home recording time. Formative experiences at Cal Arts studying with Michael Pisaro and in India singing with harmonium under guru Pashupati nath Mishra marked a slight detour for Holter in what started as a more traditional composition route. The trajectory leading to the creation of Ekstasis suggests her thirst for knowledge and experience.
While Ekstasis reflects the conventions of her classical training, the album is also uncannily, if unknowingly, poppy. Holter's approach to crafting the songs of Ekstasis centered around what she describes as, "open ear decisions: what seemed to sound best for that moment." This blindness to reference unintentionally steers Ekstasis along the experimental pop spectrum most commonly associated to New York's Downtown music micro-universe of the 80s, specifically the works of Laurie Anderson and Arthur Russell.
Kim Althea Gordon (born April 28, 1953, Rochester, New York) is an American musician, vocalist, artist, record producer, video director and actress. She has sung and played bass and guitar in the alternative rock band Sonic Youth, and in Free Kitten with Julia Cafritz (of Pussy Galore). Gordon has collaborated with a number of musicians, including Ikue Mori, DJ Olive, William Winant, Lydia Lunch, Courtney Love, Alan Licht, Mike Watt, and Chris Corsano.
Guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. Critics have called Ms. Halvorson “NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (Howard Mandel, City Arts), “the most forward-thinking guitarist working right now” (Lars Gotrich, NPR.org) and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (Francis Davis, Village Voice). In addition to her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, and her quintet, which adds trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon, Ms. Halvorson also co-leads a chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew, Reverse Blue and Secret Keeper. She is also an active member of bands led by Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Curtis Hasselbring, Ingrid Laubrock, Myra Melford, Marc Ribot, Tom Rainey and Matthew Welch among others.
Chicago born, NYC based Matana (mah-tah-Nah) Roberts is an alto saxophonist/composer/performer who works in various mediums of improvised sound and performance, A Vanlier and Brecht Forum fellow, as well as a 2008 and 2009 nominee for an Alpert Award in the Arts, she has appeared as a collaborator on recordings and performances worldwide with her own ensembles as well as with a variety of collaborative ensembles - such groups as Sticks and Stones, Burnt Sugar, Exploding Star Orchestra, the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Julius Hemphill Sextet, Myra Melford's Happy Whistlings, Jayne Cortez's Fire Spitters, Merce Cunningham Dance, and Savion Glover Dance. In 2008, the success of her leader debut, *The Chicago Project* (Central Control International), led critics to call Roberts "one to watch" (Kevin Legencre, *Jazzwise*) and "an eloquent, dramatic, tone warping free jazz artist right out of Ayler's anti bop tradition." (John Fordham, *London Guardian*) She has also recorded as a side woman on recordings with a large smattering of influential post rock ensembles such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, TV on the Radio, Savath and Savalas, and Thee Silver Mount Zion. ----- "Ms. Roberts isn't just mildly curious to expand her medium: She seems driven to do it." NY Times "Matana is definitely nondescriptive. She's not a lady, she's not a man; she's just a being…" Jazz Times "Roberts is a deep traditionalist who looks beyond the rigid distinctions and definitions of musical style" Chicago Defender "…alto saxophonist and clarinetist Matana Roberts –add this name to the frustratingly short list of excellent, female reed players…" All About Jazz "…Roberts is a fluid, elegant player who rejects the star soloist approach of many a saxophonist…." BBC Jazz "The sound of Matana Roberts' alto sax spans jazz her-story, from its roots in New Orleans, through the swinging '30s-40s, to the New Thing." All About Jazz.
Keyboardist Robert Glasper's landmark 2012 album Black Radio (recently nominated for two Grammy Awards) boldly stakes out new musical territory and transcends any notion of genre, drawing from jazz, hip-hop, R&B and rock, but refusing to be pinned down by any one tag. The Los Angeles Times once wrote that "it's a short list of jazz pianists who have the wherewithal to drop a J Dilla reference into a Thelonious Monk cover, but not many jazz pianists are Robert Glasper."
At 36, trumpeter Roy Hargrove has firmly established himself as among the premier players in jazz and beyond. Ever-stretching into more challenging and colorful ways to flex his musical chops, Hargrove has left indelible imprints in a vast array of artful settings. During his tenure on the Verve label alone, he has recorded an album with a hand-picked collection of the world’s greatest tenor saxophonists (With the Tenors of Our Time), an album of standards with strings (Moment to Moment) and, in 2003, introduced his own hip hop/jazz collective The RH Factor with the groundbreaking CD Hard Groove (swiftly followed by the limited edition EP, Strength). Hargrove has also won Grammy® Awards for two vastly different projects. In 1997, Roy’s Cuban-based band Crisol (including piano legend Jesus “Chucho” Valdes and wonder drummer Horatio “El Negro” Hernandez) won the Best Latin Jazz Performance Grammy for the album Habana. And in 2002, Hargrove, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker won Best Instrumental Jazz Album, Individual or Group, for their three-way collaboration Directions in Music.
On XXXXXX, Hargrove will bring two of his musical worlds closer together with the simultaneous release of Distractions and Nothing Serious – all new recordings by both of Roy Hargrove’s touring ensembles. Distractions features the contemporary funk/jazz sounds of The RH Factor. Nothing Serious features straight ahead jazz by The Roy Hargrove Quintet with special guest Slide Hampton on trombone. Verve A&R executive Dahlia Ambach-Caplin explains, “When it came time to work on a new album, it became clear that Roy currently has two sides to his music. Choosing one over the other would not do him justice, so we went for both, approaching them as two separate projects. The quintet recorded in March of 2005 with 15-time GRAMMY award winning engineer Al Schmitt at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, California. The RH Factor recorded later in May at Sausalito’s The Record Plant with engineer Russell Elevado.”
“I've been doing more touring with RH Factor than my quintet lately,” Hargrove muses. “People are turning a deaf ear to jazz. Some of that is the fault of jazz musicians trying too hard to appear to be cerebral. They aren’t having fun playing the music and that's why people aren't coming to hear it live anymore.
What do we have to offer in the world of jazz today? It's about being innovative, which is cool. But innovation right now will come in music that's swinging and feels good. It's meaningless if it doesn't make you feel something.”
The bulk of the new 12-track RH Factor disc is inspired vocal ruminations. Most telling is the knee-deep funk of “A Place,” the hook of which poses the musical question, “If I take you to a place I love / If I change my style / Would you like it?” For the man who came to prominence in the jazz realm, these lyrics reflect the on-going challenge he has bridging the gap between the two styles of music that dominate his direction. “My goal with RH Factor has always been to try to erase the lines between the mainstream and the underground - straight ahead and hip hop/R&B. You have musicians who know all the theory and harmony. Then you have the musicians who have a direct line to the masses and what they like to hear. If you can combine the two, it can be something innovative as well.”
Other vocal numbers on the RH Factor disc include the feel-good track “Crazy Race” (in which some of Hargrove’s trumpet lines recall a melody from Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Brazilian Rhyme”) and “Can’t Stop,” both uplifting messages about striving in the face of adversity. Singer/songwriter Renee’ Neufville, a former member of the female soul duo Zhane’ who has been performing with RH Factor for the last two years, wrote the laidback “On the One” (about missing an old lover), and co-wrote three others with Hargrove: the aforementioned “A Place,” the chill meditation “Family” and “Hold On,” which features vocals by none other than Roy himself, Renee’ and RHF drummer Jason “JT” Thomas. Commenting on his vocal feature on this album, Hargrove quips, “I sang on “I’ll Stay” from the first RH Factor album, but this is the first time I’ve sung several bars by myself.”
The man who sang with Roy on “I’ll Stay” was neo soul pioneer D’Angelo, who returns on the new album producing, writing, singing and signifyin’ on the fiery “Bull****.” “I guess he brought me a track he thought would be good for me to play over,” Roy states modestly. “He did the automation at the Record Plant in Sausalito. The band played along to what he programmed, he took it to L.A. to work on it some more, then sent it back to me in New York where I worked on it at Electric Lady Studios.” The song recalls old New Orleans as filtered through a funky haze of modern hip hop boom-bap. “‘D’ most definitely blessed me,” Roy concludes. The remaining RH Factor tracks are groove interludes titled “Distractions” (1-4), plus the percolating psychedelics of the instrumental “Kansas City.”
Recalling the humorous origin of the latter, Hargrove begins, “I was playing a gig there with Directions in Music featuring Michael Brecker and Herbie Hancock and I always carry my portable studio with me. I wrote that in the hotel just after walking to get some fried chicken and Blue Bell ice cream, which they don't sell in New York. I used to OD on that stuff when I was living in Texas. When I got to KC and saw that they were selling it there, I was so happy, I went back to the hotel and wrote that song on the spot!”
Bringing all this RH Factor funk to life is a unique ensemble of Roy on trumpet, two saxophonists (Keith Anderson and the legendary David “Fathead” Newman), three keyboardists (Charles McCampbell, Bobby Sparks and Neufville), one guitarist (Todd Parsnow), two drummers (Jason “JT” Thomas and Willie Jones III), and - most amazingly - two bass players (Lenny Stalworth and Reggie Washington). “My regular bass player, Reggie, couldn't make the recording sessions at first,” Hargrove shares. “So I hired Lenny, a friend from Berklee, to do the record. But when Reggie heard about Lenny – not wanting him to creep in and take his gig - he was like ‘Wait a minute!’ I thought, ‘two bassists-two drummers - let's go!’”
Going with the flow – in more ways than one – has long been a hallmark of Hargrove’s approach. A major influence along those lines is sax man David “Fathead” Newman, a world class player and among the most fabled members of the late great Ray Charles’ band. It was an honor for Roy to have him in the band for this special RH Factor project. “Fathead was the first musician I ever saw improvise,” Hargrove remembers. “I was about 14 when he came to Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School in Dallas. My band director, Dean Hill, was friends with ‘Fathead’ and invited him to the school. Fathead did a baritone solo over our tuba and drum sections playing (Herbie Hancock’s) “Chameleon”. He was making a whole lot of music without reading anything and I became very fascinated with that. It put me on the road to learning how to improvise.”
Where Roy describes the RH Factor disc Distractions as “coming more from my personal archives,” Nothing Serious featuring his jazz quintet is a completely different animal...and not just stylistically. “It's important with a straight ahead group for everyone to contribute,” Hargrove explains. “Opening things up compositionally keeps the program well-rounded. And even when they're playing my tunes, everybody’s sound shapes the song.” A key to this cohesiveness can be found in the title of the quintet disc’s fourth track: “Camaraderie.” “That tune is a vehicle for the band to play in a more avant garde way yet still keep it ‘in,’” Hargrove states. Breaking it down even further, he elaborates, “The title suggests togetherness, and a good group has to be very cohesive…everybody knowing where everyone else is breathing. That way if you decide to take the music ‘out,’ whatever happens remains musical. The song is organized chaos, all coming together within a minor blues.” “Camaraderie” also has the distinction of being inspired by the late trumpet great Lester Bowie, the forward thinking co-founder of the acclaimed Art Ensemble of Chicago. Roy recalls their meeting. “I was playing a jam session one night in Italy and Lester was there listening. I was playing all my bebop. He came up to me and said, ‘Man, take it out!’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Stop playing all that pretty stuff. Play something ugly!’ So I started playing less inside…screamin'...makin’ a lot of noise. Lester lit up like, ‘Yeah!’ It was a lesson for me.”
The 8-song Roy Hargrove Quintet disc Nothing Serious moves from Roy’s breathtaking and sensual Flugelhorn ballad “Trust” and the enveloping warmth of “The Gift” to a fierce waltz time swinger “Salima’s Dance” (from the pen of pianist Ronnie Matthews), a relentlessly winding study in melody from bassist D’Wayne Burno evocatively titled “Devil Eyes,” and a whirl through the magical changes of Branislau Kaper’s “Invitation,” the set’s sole jazz standard. Rounding out the stellar quintet are alto saxophonist Justin Robinson (who also plays some lovely flute on “Trust”) and drummer Willie Jones III, the latter of whom has been playing in Hargrove’s groups for eight years. As a whole, this incarnation of the Roy Hargrove Quintet has been playing together for four years, the tightness of which is evident throughout the disc. The band perfected most of the material on the road before the recording.
One glowing exception is the lushly swingin’ “A Day in Vienna,” contributed by special guest Slide Hampton, a living giant of jazz. Roy cut his teeth with Hampton’s band in a trumpet section that included greats Jon Faddis and Claudio Roditi (documented on the Telarc Records CD Dedicated to Diz, a Slide Hampton & The Jazz Masters set from `93 recorded live at the Village Vanguard). “Slide has been a big part of my education. I can't tell you know much playing charts from the original Dizzy Big Band book with that group helped me. The way that Slide arranges and voices, he knows how to take a small group of horns and make it sound like an orchestra.” Listen to Roy’s own “Trust” to hear that he learned Slide’s lessons well.
Roy Hargrove was born in Waco, TX on October 16, 1969. Inspired by the gospel music he heard in church on Sundays and the R&B and funk music that played on the radio, Roy began learning the trumpet in the fourth grade. By junior high school, he was playing at an advanced level of proficiency. At 16, he was studying music at Dallas's prestigious Booker T. Washington School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
Midway through his junior year, Roy was "discovered" by Wynton Marsalis, who was conducting a jazz clinic at the school. Impressed, Marsalis invited Roy to sit in with his band at Ft. Worth's Caravan of Dreams Performing Arts Center. Subsequently, Hargrove was able to return to the venue over a period of the next three months, sitting in with Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson. Word of Roy’s talent reached Paul Ackett, founder and Director of The North Sea Jazz Festival who arranged for him to perform there that summer. This lead to a month long European Tour.
Hargrove spent one year (1988-1989) studying at Boston's Berklee School of Music, but could more often be found in NYC jam sessions, which resulted in his transferring to New York’s New School. His first recording in NYC was with the saxophonist Bobby Watson followed shortly by a session with the up-and-comers super group, Superblue featuring Watson, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Washington. In 1990, he released his solo debut, Diamond in the Rough, on the Novus/RCA label, for which he would record a total of four albums that document his incubational growth as a “young lion” to watch. Hargrove made his Verve Records debut in 1994 on With the Tenors of Our Time, showcasing him with stellar sax men Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin, Joshua Redman and Branford Marsalis.
Every album Roy has released on Verve has been different from the one preceding it. And the same can be said of the array of talents who have invited him to grace the stage and/or their recordings - from jazz legends Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean to song stylists Natalie Cole, Diana Krall and Abbey Lincoln. From pop veterans Diana Ross, Steve Tyrell and Kenny Rankin to younger stars John Mayer and Rhian Benson to the crème de la crème of jazz divas: Carmen McRae and the late, great Shirley Horn. Hargrove was also commissioned by the Lincoln Jazz Center to compose the piece “The Love Suite: In Mahogany,” which was performed in 1993. He is also a superstar of the international touring scene with his quintet, RH Factor and as a soloist.
In 2005, he was a featured guest with Slide Hampton and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band in bi-coastal tributes to James Moody in honor of the saxophonists 80th birthday at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and approximately 25 other concerts around the globe. As RH Factor attests, Roy is also a product of the hip hop generation. He can be heard on a cover of rapper Method Man’s “All I Need” the album-opening track of producer Tony Joseph’s 2005 Verve project Def Jazz (instrumental interpretations of rap classics from the Def Jam label).
He has further ventured into the black pop mainstream as a collaborator with edgy soul star D'Angelo and guest appearances on albums by neo soul priestess Erykah Badu, thought-provoking rapper Common, and English acid jazz DJ/producer Gilles Peterson.
Touching back on the statement Roy made at the outset about the state of jazz and jazz audiences today, the music world would be hard pressed to find another ambassador capable of traversing the worlds of straight ahead swingin’ and the funky underground better than Brother Hargrove. The RH Factor’s Distractions and The Roy Hargrove Quintet’s Nothing Serious stand as the actual proof.
If indeed "you blows who you is," as Louis Armstrong once famously said, then Stephen Bruner's bass is a mainline to the soul of a man whose DNA was transcribed from the stars onto staff paper. His Flying Lotus-produced debut, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, offers both stone-cold skill and uncanny astrality, picking up where the pair left off on 2010′s Cosmogramma and further distilling the jazz current running through that landmark Lotus release. A longtime contributor to others' albums, Bruner, aka Thundercat, is accompanied by an impressive cast ranging from Erykah Badu to members of Sa-Ra and J*DaVeY, to pianist Austin Peralta and his own Grammy-winning brother, drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr. Still, the end result is unmistakably a Thundercat record — a lush and magical document combining classic jazz fusion, futurist electronic strains and timeless musical seeking.
A native of South Los Angeles, Bruner found his instrument at the age of 4. That made him a late-bloomer in the house of Ronald, Sr., who drummed with the Temptations among others. His first bass was a black Harmony, and he practiced to the Ninja Turtles soundtrack until pops played him Jaco Pastorius. School was a blur of lessons, sessions and waking up for zero periods. At 15, he scored a hit in Germany as part of the short-lived boy band No Curfew. At 16, he toured Japan with soul man Leon Ware and joined thrash legends Suicidal Tendencies (he's still their bassist). More road and studio time followed, with everyone from Stanley Clarke to Snoop Dogg to Eric Benet. Eventually the name Thundercat stuck, a reference to the cartoon he's loved since childhood and an extension of Bruner's wide-eyed, vibrant, often superhuman approach to his craft. As one writer put it, he's "a mutant jazz cat," nuff said.
Spanning a cosmic stew of players, locations and times, The Golden Age of Apocalypse was years in the making even though Bruner had never planned on releasing his own music. But Lotus spurred him on, and each song became a journey. There's the ebullient "Daylight," a soft whirl of bluesy piano, New Age synth, snapping beats and warm bass. There's "Walkin'," an upbeat soul strutter powered by Bruner's digitally distorted plucks. There are raw, improvised numbers like "Jamboree" and virtuosic bass pileups like "Fleer Ultra." One of the album's most stunning moments arrives with a spacious cover of George Duke's "For Love I Come," a taut beauty spangled with crystalline harp and keys. Bringing this string of divinely unexpected moments to a moody and cinematic close is "Return to the Journey." There, Bruner sings, "Time will pass us by," but listeners needn't worry. Inside of this space, time really isn't a thing.
By now, there can be no doubt that pianist-composer Iyer stands among the most daringly original jazz artists of [his] generation,” wrote Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune. The American-born son of Indian immigrants and a 2011 Grammy nominee, VIJAY IYER (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) was described by The Village Voice as “the most commanding pianist and composer to emerge in recent years,” by The New Yorker as one of “today's most important pianists... extravagantly gifted,” by Pitchfork as “one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today,” and by the L.A. Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star.”
Even by these superlative terms, 2012 has been a remarkable year for Vijay Iyer. In an unprecedented series of wins, Iyer received top honors in five categories of the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll, including Jazz Artist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year (for Accelerando), Jazz Group of the Year (for the Vijay Iyer Trio), Pianist of the Year and Rising Star Composer. No other artist in the sixty-year history of the magazine’s poll has ever taken five titles simultaneously. A few days earlier, the Jazz Journalists Association voted Iyer Pianist of the Year in the 2012 Jazz Awards. (This is far from his first such accolade; in the 2010 Jazz Awards, the JJA voted Iyer Musician of the Year, an honor previously given to Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, and Wayne Shorter.) Earlier in 2012, he won two major arts prizes: the $225,000 Doris Duke Artist Award, and the $30,000 Greenfield Prize.
Neither an aberration nor the playing out of a trend, this latest tide of honors is a direct result of Iyer’s remarkable seventeen-year track record as an artist. His sixteen recordings have covered so much ground at such a high level of acclaim that it is easy to forget that they all belong to the same person. In March 2012, he released Accelerando, an intense and visceral album of original music and reimagined covers, featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio (Iyer, piano; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Stephan Crump, bass). Accelerando rapidly garnered universal critical acclaim, hailed by The New York Times as “an early frontrunner for jazz album of the year,” by Pitchfork as "...[Iyer's] hardest-hitting trio album yet," by Down Beat as "terrific" and "ingenious," by All Music Guide as “a triumph in creativity and expert musicianship,” and by New York Magazine quite earnestly as "one of the best instrumental hip-hop albums ever made." It reached #1 on CMJ Radio, was named Down Beat’s #1 jazz album of the year, and earned the trio the title #1 jazz group of the year.
Accelerando is a follow-up to the trio's Grammy-nominated previous release, Historicity (2009), also a set of originals and surprising covers in his signature style, which became one of the last decade’s landmark jazz albums. Historicity received an astonishing level of acclaim, also named the #1 jazz album of the year by the Down Beat International Critics Poll, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Metro Times, National Public Radio, PopMatters.com, and the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll. It, too, reached #1 on the CMJ jazz radio charts. The Vijay Iyer Trio went on to win the 2010 Echo Jazz Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international ensemble and the 2010 Downbeat Critics Poll for rising star jazz group. “Presto! Here is the great new jazz piano trio.” (New York Times) “Truly astonishing... they make challenging music sound immediately enjoyable.” (National Public Radio) “A jewel... 9 out of 10” (PopMatters.com).
Between these two landmark trio albums, Iyer released two very different discs. In August 2010 Iyer released Solo, a kaleidoscopic piano album, which earned him solo concert engagements around the world and an extensive interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. The disc was praised as “bursting with both emotion and intelligence… a dispatch from the vibrant forefront of jazz.” (Utne Reader) This was followed in March 2011 by Tirtha, a trio collaboration with guitarist Prasanna and tabla player Nitin Mitta: “a jazz-informed reflection on the contemporary South Asian diaspora, with three perspectives in creative convergence… a wakeful, radiant performance.” (New York Times) "Tirtha is a triumph; it is a high-water mark in the constantly evolving discussion between jazz and Indian music.” (All Music Guide)
Over the previous ten years, Iyer's celebrated quartet featuring award-winning saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa mined “the magical and murky, imagined interzone, where the music of the Indo-Asian Diaspora meets the Western Jazz tradition... establishing the next extension in both traditions” (All Music Guide). They documented “some of the freshest, most compelling jazz today” (NPR) on four landmark discs, Panoptic Modes (2001), Blood Sutra (2003), Reimagining (2005), and Tragicomic (2008), each garnering worldwide praise.
Alongside these works sit several vastly different, groundbreaking collaborations. Among the best known are In What Language? (2004), Still Life with Commentator (2007), and the work-in-progress Holding it Down, three politically searing, stylistically omnivorous large-scale works created by Iyer with poet-performer Mike Ladd (“unfailingly imaginative and significant” - JazzTimes; “powerful narrative invention and ravishing trance-jazz... an eloquent tribute to the stubborn, regenerative powers of the human spirit” - Rolling Stone). On another end of the spectrum, Your Life Flashes (2002), Simulated Progress (2005), and Door (2008) capture the innovations of the experimental collective Fieldwork (“phenomenal... incredible, challenging, and forward-thinking” - All Music Guide). And Raw Materials (2006, “a total triumph from beginning to end” - All About Jazz) documents “one of the great partnerships in jazz” (Chicago Tribune) - the piano-saxophone duo of Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa. All of Iyer’s albums have appeared on best-of-the-year lists in dozens of major media, ranging from JazzTimes, Jazzwise, Jazzman, Downbeat, and The Wire, to ArtForum, National Public Radio, The Utne Reader, The New Yorker, and The Village Voice.
Iyer's accomplishments extend well beyond his recordings. His quintet suite Far From Over, commissioned by the 2008 Chicago Jazz Festival and debuted before an audience of 30,000, was praised in the Chicago Tribune as “making music history... a potential masterpiece... searing, original, and dramatically charged... a shattering, epic composition.” His orchestral work Interventions was commissioned and premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in March 2007 under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies. It was praised by The New York Times as “all spiky and sonorous,” and by the Philadelphia City Paper for its “heft and dramatic vision and a daring sense of soundscape.” Other works include Playlist for an Extreme Occasion (2012) commissioned by Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble; Mozart Effects (2011), a "freewheeling, raucously joyful response" (Boston Globe) to a brief Mozart fragment, commissioned by Brentano String Quartet; Mutations I-X (2005) commissioned and premiered by the string quartet ETHEL; Three Episodes for Wind Quintet (1999) written for Imani Winds; a “ravishing” (Variety) score for the original theater/dance work Betrothed (2007); the prize-winning film score for Teza (2008) by legendary filmmaker Haile Gerima; a suite of acoustic jazz cues for the sports channel ESPN (2009); the award-winning audiovisual installation Release (2010) in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison; and the suite UnEasy (2011) in collaboration with choreographer Karole Armitage. Forthcoming in 2012-2013 are new commissioned works for Bang on a Can All-Stars, Brooklyn Rider, and International Contemporary Ensemble. An accomplished electronic musician and producer, Iyer has remixed tracks for British Asian electronica pioneer Talvin Singh, Islamic punk band The Kominas, and composer-performer Meredith Monk, and has collaborated with Das Racist, Dead Prez, Imani Uzuri, and High Priest of Antipop Consortium.
Across this diverse output, Iyer's artistic vision remains unmistakable. His powerful, cutting-edge music is firmly grounded in groove and pulse, but also rhythmically intricate and highly interactive; fluidly improvisational, yet uncannily orchestrated; emotionally compelling, as well as innovative in texture, style, and musical form. Its many points of reference include jazz piano titans such as Monk, Ellington, Tyner, Alice Coltrane, Andrew Hill, and Randy Weston; the classical sonorities of composers such as Reich, Ligeti, Messiaen, and Bartok; the low-end sonics of rock, soul, funk, hip-hop, dub, and electronica; the intricate polyphonies of African drumming; and the vital, hypnotic music of Iyer's Indian heritage.
Iyer was featured in substantial interviews on NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered, PRI’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, the Wall Street Journal, Die Welt, and The Times of India. A perennial critical favorite, Iyer won the Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards for 2012 Pianist of the Year, 2010 Musician of the Year, and 2004 Up & Coming Musician of the Year. He has repeatedly won multiple categories of the Down Beat Magazine International Critics' Poll, including Rising Star Jazz Artist (2006, 2007), Rising Star Composer (2006, 2007), Rising Star Pianist (2009), Rising Star Jazz Group (2010), Album of the Year (2010, 2012), Jazz Group of the Year (2012), Pianist of the Year (2012), Jazz Artist of the Year (2012). He has appeared on the covers of several international music magazines: JazzTimes (US), Downbeat (US), Jazzwise (UK), JazzThetik and JazzPodium (Germany), Concerto (Austria), and Jazz’n’More (Switzerland). He was recently chosen by GQ India as one of 50 Most Influential Global Indians. His many other honors include the prestigious 2003 CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2006 Fellowship in Music Composition from New York Foundation for the Arts and most recently the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the 2012 Greenfield Prize. As a composer/performer, Iyer has received commissioning grants from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, Creative Capital Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, American Composers Forum, Chamber Music America, Meet The Composer, and Jazz Institute of Chicago. Iyer is currently engaged in a multi-year residency with San Francisco Performances, performing and working with arts and community groups.
Iyer has joined forces with a wide range of contemporary artists, including creative music legends Steve Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris, Amina Claudine Myers, and Henry Threadgill; next-generation innovators Craig Taborn, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dafnis Prieto, Steve Lehman, and Tyshawn Sorey; hip-hop artists Das Racist, Dead Prez, and DJ Spooky; tablaist/producers Talvin Singh and Karsh Kale; poets Amiri Baraka, Mike Ladd, and Robert Pinsky; filmmakers Bill Morrison and Haile Gerima; and choreographer Karole Armitage.
A polymath whose work has spanned the sciences, arts, and humanities, Iyer holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics from Yale College, and a Masters in Physics and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Technology and the Arts from the University of California at Berkeley. He was chosen as one of nine “Revolutionary Minds” in the science magazine Seed, and his research in music cognition has been featured on the radio programs This Week in Science and Studio 360. A faculty member at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and The New School, he has also given master classes and lectures in music, cognitive science, jazz studies, and performance studies at California Institute of the Arts, Columbia University, Harvard University, Berklee School of Music, University of California campuses, and the School for Improvisational Music, among others. He was recently appointed Director of the Banff Centre's International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, a program founded in 1974 by Oscar Peterson.. His writings appear in Music Perception, Current Musicology, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Journal for the Society of American Music, The Guardian, The Wire, JazzTimes, and the anthologies Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia University Press), Sound Unbound (MIT Press), Arcana IV (Hips Road), and The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010 (Princeton University Press). He is a Steinway artist and uses Ableton Live software.