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Vulture

Vijay Iyer on why jazz has always been political

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When you think of jazz, you might think of La La Land, luxury car commercials, or fancy dinner parties. Cool, sophisticated, complex, jazz today seems to signify the epitome of class and taste. For pianist Vijay Iyer, that view gets the music completely wrong. Jazz isn’t cool. Jazz is countercultural. Jazz is alive and relevant. Jazz fights racism and injustice. And for those reasons, maybe we shouldn’t be calling this music “jazz” at all.
With a trio of Linda May Han Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, Iyer has recorded a new album, Uneasy, that continues the defiant political legacy of improvised music. Through songs that tackles the Flint water crisis, the murder of Eric Garner, and social unrest, Iyer connects to the key of issues of our day without saying a word. While his songs speak to our chaotic present and crackle with fierce urgency, they also reach back to elders like John Coltrane, Geri Allen, and Charles Mingus—musicians who never shied away from a fight.
Songs discussed:
Charlie Parker - Ko Ko
Charles Mingus - Fables of Faubus, Original Faubus Fables
Vijay Iyer - Children of Flint, Combat Breathing, Uneasy
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