Vijay Iyer plays jazz with the sophistication of science

The Artistry of… Vijay Iyer

An upstate New Yorker of Indian heritage, Vijay Iyer started out playing the violin at an early age. As he got older, he started to play around with his older sister’s piano. His piano skills and his writing both have self-taught beginnings. Some may argue that it allows a sense of purity with influences — maybe only affected by the parameters of imagination and ability.

Jazz seduced Iyer in his teens and he played with groups through his college years. But science is also his thing; his degrees include a master’s in physics and a very cool combination degree at the doctorate level with an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in music and cognitive science.

The music that inspires him is infused with elements of African, Asian and European musical cultures and practices. A creative and imaginative freedom merges with a sophistication no doubt stemming from his forays in the world of science and the meshing of music into that world. Those worlds are not so far apart at all, in their ways.


The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.


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