This is a past event.
When: Fri., Sept. 5, 7 & 9 p.m. 2014
Price: $40
Earlier this year pianist and composer Vijay Iyer demonstrated his commitment to notated music with Mutations (ECM), which sometimes augments his piano with a string quartet, electronics, or both. Even in that setting, though, Iyer couldn’t help but draw upon improvisation, both in his own playing and by providing the string players with a palette of notated material from which they could draw spontaneously. Few pianists have shown such curiosity and range in recent years, and Iyer gets much of his wide-eyed openness and adaptability from his skills as an improviser—which will be on display in tonight’s rare solo sets, his first ever in Chicago. His most recent recording in that format is the 2010 recital Solo (ACT), where his playing flows between close reading and on-the-fly rearrangement while incorporating a long-view compositional logic, particularly on familiar material such as Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” or the standard “Darn That Dream.” In his opening cadenza to Monk’s “Epistrophy” he elaborates on a fragment of the song’s melody, but it’s still a surprise when he first quotes it recognizably after a minute or so. Iyer digs into swing-era material and recent pop music, and he filters everything through a rigorous sensibility that complements his mathematical analysis of the compositions with a melodic touch that makes room for bursts of emotion—the low-end hammering in his take on Duke Ellington’s “Black & Tan Fantasy,” for example, or the turbulent thunder in “Autoscopy.” Iyer performs twice this evening in PianoForte’s new studio space, whose acoustics should do justice to his talents and whose intimacy should encourage the sort of audience attention they deserve. —Peter Margasak
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