Pianist Vijay Iyer is one of the most celebrated and talked-about musicians of his generation. His list of accomplishments and accolades is impressive, including Grammy Nominations, Jazz Musician of the Year awards, and even a MacArthur Genius Award. His body of work is as broad as it is creative, and he’s a powerful piano player and a skillful composer. He was recently added to the music faculty at Harvard, so he must be a pretty good teacher, too!
Iyer started playing violin at age 3 and took lessons for most of his childhood, but learned to play piano by ear and is largely self-taught. He has led his celebrated trio with Stephen Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums for many years and their albums have been widely heralded as among the best year after year.
The trio is a powerhouse, whether playing originals or covers. Today’s song is a case in point. It’s their cover of M.I.A.’s “Galang,” and it flat-out rocks!
In case you haven’t heard the original, here it is:
I think it’s interesting that Iyer heard this song, which is primarily just a rhythm and a rap, and thought to translate it to the piano trio. It shows his creative mind, and shows how much of jazz is really about the rhythm in the first place. And I just love Crump’s bassline, which tries to emulate the rhythm track.
Our bonus track today is one of Iyer’s originals, to give you a taste of his composition skills. This one is called “Lude” from the album “Accelerando,” and features the same band.
Iyer is one of those modern jazz musicians who has clearly soaked up the history of the music but is not bound by it. Only in his 40s, it’ll be fun to see where he goes with his music and this trio in particular.
Jason Parker is a Seattle-based jazz trumpet player, educator and writer. His band, The Jason Parker Quartet, was hailed by Earshot Jazz as “the next generation of Seattle jazz.” Find out more about Jason and his music at jasonparkermusic.com.