[Dixielandjazz] The "PRESENTATION" of Jazz

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Mon, 23 Sep 2002 11:14:23 -0400

List mates;

Read not so much for the music review, but for the way this man presents
jazz. The first 3 paragraphs are a good lesson of how it should be, but
seldom is, done.

Steve Barone

September 23, 2002  New York Times

A Modern Musician Plays the Host While Playing the Piano


      The young pianist Vijay Iyer isn't known for making superfriendly
tonal harmony and swing rhythm; in his own quartet as well as in his
cooperative trio, Fieldwork, there is plenty to hang on to in the way of
rhythms and compositional structure, but the music isn't especially

Still, during his solo piano set on Thursday night at the Jazz Standard
 part of a five-day series within the Verizon Music Festival, which is
presenting a fine array of solo jazz pianists  he played short pieces,
paused to introduce new songs, welcomed the audience a few times and
played host.

This is what young jazz musicians do these days: it is an effect of
having heard all your life the two contradictory, mindless
pseudo-truisms that jazz is America's great music of the people and that
it can be understood only by a narrow, smug elite. In fact, jazz is a
viable art, and much remains to be said in it. But if your presentations
are too obfuscatory, nobody is going to listen, and living in New York
is too expensive to pretend otherwise.

Mr. Iyer grasps this, and he's modern in other ways, too. He does what
he wants but supports everything with a guiding structural idea. On
Thursday he included Duke Ellington's "Sucrier Velours," a roseate
ballad with a stride-piano left hand, ending with two softly pedaled
notes in an uneasy interval; he also took a run at the folk song "Hey
Joe" (made famous by Jimi Hendrix), a bridgeless repeating cycle of

The performance also included the kind of music more in line with what
Mr. Iyer plays in his small groups. There were spiny two-hand rhythmic
exercises, one in a 10-beat rhythm and one in a compound rhythm of 3 and
4, like a tala in classical Indian music. There was also a piece of
metrically loping funk by Steve Coleman, some abrupt rhythmic playing
shot through with space  la Thelonious Monk, and a dirgelike original,

Orderly and just under an hour long, the concert seemed both casual and
rather self-aware. Jazz needn't always be a transformative experience,
and sometimes, especially in the realm of solo-piano recitals, brevity
and lightness can work.