V. J. Iyer

V. J. Iyer

Keep Resisting, Keep Listening
— Vijay Iyer

The Germans are having a big impact on the Chicago cultural scene in the month of May.  Next Thursday night, German publisher Gerhard Steidl will deliver the Hugh Edwards Lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Steidl, who is known for his exacting production standards and superb taste (Gerhard Steel is Making Books an Art Form, The New Yorker May 22, 2017), is probably the top publisher of photographic works in the world.  

In the world of music, ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) is known for its superb jazz releases, which now number over 1,500, and its stable of modern purveyors of the art, including Keith Jarrett, John Abercrombie, Jan Garbarek, Tomasz Stanko, Carla Bley, Charles Lloyd, and many others.  The label was founded in 1969 by Manfred Eicher in Munich, Germany.  Like Steidl's books, Eicher's recordings are known for their high production values, beautiful packaging (remember the European imports back from the early Seventies, with the glossy covers that felt so good to the touch), and cutting edge music.

A capacity crowd at the University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts heard Vijay Iyer, a relatively recent addition to the ECM family, perform last night with a sextet.  At the end of the concert, one enthusiastic listener told trumpeter Graham Haynes that he heard parts of Sketches of Spain in the music.  Graham said there was a lot of stuff to be heard in the 90-minute performance.  I can't say Sketches of Spain came to mind or ear, but Haynes is correct: there is a lot of stuff going on in the swirl of sounds.  I heard bits of Ravel, mid-Sixties Coltrane, controlled avant garde, and even some gospel beats.  

The sextet was a relatively new endeavor for Iyer.  If I heard correctly, he recently had this group in the studio, with an album release of much of the music we heard scheduled for later this year.

Pianist Vijay Iyer Leads Sextet Behind an Electric Piano with No Light

The Graceful Graham Haynes on Fluggelhorn 

The Ever Graceful Graham Haynes Takes a Pause

Iyler, the Franklin D. and Florence Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music at Harvard University, Plays the Electric Piano

Mark Shim on Tenor Saxophone

Justin Brown Keeping Time

Stephan Crump on Bass



Steve Lehman Pauses with Stephan Crump in the Background Working

Tenor Saxophone on the Horizon

Gerhard Steidl

Gerhard Steidl

The New Wing

The New Wing