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Jazz pianist Vijay Iyer talks Janelle Monae, mixing genres and more

August 12, 2010 |  4:19 pm

Vijay-iyer I had the pleasure of speaking with jazz pianist Vijay Iyer a short time ago in advance of Sunday's performance with his trio at Pasadena's Levitt Pavilion (which is free, by the way -- seriously, if you have any curiosity about jazz or jazz piano, this would be a good show to catch).

We talked about the effect of the avalanche of critical acclaim he received since his 2009 album "Historicity," his impressive new solo piano album coming Aug. 31 and his genre-blind view of music, particularly with regard to his cover choices. In the past he has reinterpreted John Lennon, Stevie Wonder and M.I.A., and his diverse track record continues on "Solo" with a reverent take on Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," which fits rather nicely against a cover of Monk's "Epistrophy" and Iyer's inventive originals.

And while you'd expect any number of famed solo jazz recordings acting as his inspiration, there was one album in particular he found a kinship with during the making of this album: Janelle Monáe's genre-hopping "The ArchAndroid."

"I listened to that the day that we were mixing, which was pretty interesting because it’s obviously very different sonic landscape. It’s kind of just good to get a blast of something else, just some other dose of creative expression that’s not yours when you’re holed up in this kind of thing," he said.

"And maybe that’s just who I am because in a way my role in this music has never been some sort of insular thing, it’s always been kind of leaking into other areas of music and contingent on what’s around it."

Read the whole story here.

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Vijay Iyer in concert. Credit: Hans Speekenbrink

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