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Published: 2010/09/20
by Ron Hart

Vijay Iyer
Solo

ACT Music

Following up on the critical acclaim of his 2009 trio album Historicity, New York City-based piano guru Vijay Iyer steps out on his own with his debut solo endeavor appropriately titled, well, Solo. Produced by the artist in tandem with Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Cookie Marenco (Max Roach, Brad Mehldau, Buckethead, Charlie Haden), Iyer stitches together a seamless quilt of the varied playing styles that have shaped his skills as a performer—running the gamut of sounds that ranges from the quaint to the cacophonous. This 11-track collection kicks off with a gorgeous, straightforward reflection on Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” which Iyer had started performing in concert following the King of Pop’s tragic death last summer, making the ballad’s unforgettable melody his own with an intimacy that reveals his lifelong connection to the Thriller smash. From there, Vijay dedicates much of Solo to the opportunity of paying homage his jazz heroes, be it through quotes in the original material featured here, echoing the discordant complexity of Cecil Taylor on “Autoscopy” and channeling the cosmic grace of Sun Ra on his tribute to the legendary bebop space case “One for Blount” or through his imaginative interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” and a pair of Duke Ellington’s finest compositions in “Black & Tan Fantasy” and “Fleurette Africaine.” Iyer returned to the Bay Area, where he spent the majority of the 1990s honing his chops as a sideman gigging alongside such Oakland jazz luminaries as Ed Kelly and Smily Winters, to record Solo. And one can easily feel the sense of cool and calm of familiar territory emanating from the 88 keys of his Steinway on this magnificent testament to the artistry of the men whose ranks Vijay Iyer is on the fast track to joining.

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