In all honesty, when I was invited by Min Kwon to participate in this project, I was quite reluctant. I find nationalistic sentiment dangerous, and will not write or sing praise songs to this or any nation. I am surely not alone in this, especially now that we've seen some of this nation's most powerful citizens implement terror, cruelty, and violence against the most vulnerable, under a false banner of patriotism. In the end, instead of declining the invitation, I managed to assemble this depleted, ambivalent, mournful echo of the original.
Composer-pianist VIJAY IYER (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) has carved out a unique path as an influential, prolific, and shape-shifting presence in modern music. He received a MacArthur Fellowship, a U.S. Artists Fellowship, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and the Alpert Award in the Arts, and was voted Jazz Artist of the Year in the DownBeat International Critics’ Poll four times. He was described by Pitchfork as "one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today," by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star,” and by Minnesota Public Radio as “an American treasure.” Iyer’s most recent releases on ECM Records include UnEasy (2021) in trio with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and bassist Linda May Han Oh; The Transitory Poems (2019) in duo with fellow pianist Craig Taborn; Far From Over (2017) with Iyer’s award-winning sextet; and A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (2016) in duo with creative music legend Wadada Leo Smith. His compositions have been commissioned and premiered by International Contemporary Ensemble, Brentano Quartet, Imani Winds, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, The Knights, So Percussion, Matt Haimovitz, Claire Chase, and Jennifer Koh, among others. He has served as Artistic Director for the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music since 2013. He holds a lifetime position as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Music and the Department of African and African American Studies. He is a Steinway artist.
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon