Monday, August 16, 2010

Vijay Iyer Solo Piano Recording -- Review on Hatchet Fish

Reprint from

Vijay Iyer on ‘Solo’

In 2010, one thing I almost always want to do is listen to Vijay Iyer play the piano.  And I’ve only just begun. I listen to Historicity, a 2009 album by the Vijay Iyer Trio, and a few tracks from his collaborations with tenor saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and spoken word artist Mike Ladd. On a Friday night earlier this summer, I traveled from Ithaca, NY to hear and see the trio perform at Birdland.
Iyer’s first solo album, entitled Solo, is coming out at the end of the month. To occupy this particular want until then, a short video on the making of Solo has been released.  I made an imperfect transcription of Vijay Iyer’s commentary on the video, which I hope doesn’t violate any IP rights.
So we’re making this album here at  Belmont, CA, at a place called OTR Studios, with this beautiful piano which… is one of the finest recording pianos on the West Coast. And it also happens to be the piano where I made my first couple of albums and with the engineer who helped me make those albums. I’ve known her since 1995, and she’s someone I can trust.
I think of it, this process, making a solo album, everything is so exposed and…sensitive; it’s a very delicate process…y’know…you’re getting a real full dose of the piano…it’s like you’re being immersed in it. It’s not just a document….it’s really a sort of taking a stand about what a piano should sound like. The piano has a feeling very…lush and rich and vast…also has a lot of clarity, a lot of delicacy. Some people want the piano to be in front of them; but this is more like it’s all around you.
This is the most personal statement I could possibly issue, artistically. It’s the ultimate reveal [laughs], you know? ….um and it’s very vulnerable. So, one of the central pieces on this album is entitled  “Autoscopy,” which is a kind of out-of -body experience, when you have a sensation of leaving your body and watching it. So, in a way, that’s what this album is…[laughs] is that process performed through the recording studio.
In the craft of records there is improvisation involved, you know, and discovery and, uh, and collaboration…building …it’s not built before they get in the studio it’s actually built in the process. I guess each piece…I’ve been playing has its own story. It’s been interesting deciding what to put on this album. I’m doing a number of my own pieces. I’m dealing with pianists who’ve inspired me, you know, I’ve talked about Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, pianists as composers, people who’ve presented a vision of music at the piano….not just as players but as architects of music.
Well you know, one thing that I find to be pretty crucial is to strip away any notion of …pride? [laughs] or, uh, intent. You know, like it kind of has to, you can’t be too attached to what’s supposed to happen ……a specific piece, you know, because it’s improvisational music, it’s meant to be alive. I think part of what I want to do with this album is sort of re-….acquaint people with the process of experience itself, with really what it means to live through a moment. There are certain kinds of works of art that do that, where you don’t just glance at it, you live with it or you kind of live through it or move through it. You’ve got to put your body in the space. Now, music does that with you with time. You have to put your body through the time that was experienced by the body that made it. At some level we’re sharing time. This recording is recording something that you can kind of move around in. You can kind of live inside of it, something you can live with and can experience in layers, like each time you revisit you find something else.