The Ge­nius Grant for Vi­jay Iyer reaf­firms the jazz pian­ist’s stature as a colos­sus on the con­tem­po­rary mu­sic scene

India Today - - PROFILE - By Indira Kan­nan

Jazz pian­ist and com­poser Vi­jay Iyer likes to start his day by pack­ing lunch for his eightyear- old daugh­ter who can be a “picky eater”— but­tered bagels, cheese and crack­ers and fruit are an eas­ier sell— and walk­ing her to her school bus- stop in New York. But his days don’t of­ten start that way. This month alone, Iyer, who turns 42 on Oc­to­ber 26, will be­gin his day, away from his daugh­ter and wife, in at least half- adozen coun­tries in­clud­ing Ro­ma­nia, Italy, Bel­gium, Ger­many and Ser­bia.

That’s life on the road for an artist who has won var­i­ous ac­co­lades in­clud­ing a Grammy nom­i­na­tion for his 2009 al­bum ‘ His­toric­ity’. The most re­cent, and per­haps the most pres­ti­gious, recog­ni­tion of his tal­ent came on Septem­ber 25 from the MacArthur Foun­da­tion, which picked Iyer among two dozen re­cip­i­ents of this year’s fel­low­ship, pop­u­larly known as the “Ge­nius Grant”, that awards Amer­i­can cre­ativ­ity in var­i­ous fields. The award comes with a $ 625,000 grant, paid over five years.

Iyer is a rare In­dian- Amer­i­can star in the quintessen­tially AfricanAmer­i­can mu­sic form of jazz in the United States. Over a ca­reer span­ning 18 years, he has daz­zled lis­ten­ers and crit­ics. The New Yorker called him “one of to­day’s most im­por­tant pi­anists… ex­trav­a­gantly gifted”. His al­bums reg­u­larly fig­ure in best record of the year lists.

But live con­certs are the lifeblood of a jazz mu­si­cian, and Iyer spends a lot of time on the road within the US and abroad. In an in­ter­view he said, “I don’t ex­actly en­joy drag­ging my body from place to place but I en­joy con­nect­ing with com­mu­ni­ties in dif­fer­ent places and shar­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence with mu­sic.”

Born and brought up in up­state New York by par­ents who moved to the US from Tamil Nadu, Iyer’s jazz jour­ney be­gan al­most by ac­ci­dent while he was

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