Vijay Iyer Trio accelerates 

click to enlarge Acclaimed ensemble: The Vijay Iyer Trio _ featuring, from left, bassist Stephan Crump, pianist Iyer and drummer Marcus Gilmore _ appears Saturday in The City. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Acclaimed ensemble: The Vijay Iyer Trio _ featuring, from left, bassist Stephan Crump, pianist Iyer and drummer Marcus Gilmore _ appears Saturday in The City.

Named 2010 musician of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association, Indian-American pianist Vijay Iyer and his trio are coming to town for what is certain to be a breathtaking Saturday evening.

Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore — appearing at Herbst Theatre in a San Francisco Performances presentation — surely will play tracks from both the Grammy-nominated 2009 album “Historicity” (voted jazz album of the year by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and National Public Radio), and the sensational new “Accelerando.”

“‘Accelerando’ is a stunningly good album: monastically intricate, but also a rousing head-shaker, it’s even danceable, I give it a 96,” jazz critic Fred Kaplan writes on

The album is but the latest example of Iyer’s breadth of creativity. A UC Berkeley graduate with a doctorate in the cognitive science of music, Iyer seems to delight in the opportunity to freely mix his own compositions with arrangements of music by Duke Ellington, Henry Threadgill and others.

The result is a CD that pulses with life, yet surprisingly de-accelerates for a relaxed and lyrical closing with Ellington’s “The Village of the Virgins,” arranged from the orchestral score for his 1970 ballet “The River.”

Ellington’s music also provides a striking counterpoint to the eponymous title track. The final movement of the suite “Uneasy” (which Iyer composed for a Central Park performance by choreographer Karole Armitage), it’s one of the album’s many highlights.

“I’m interested in tempo as a structural element,” Iyer says, “and the score was an experiment to see if a constantly accelerating pulse could be the basis for dance. Luckily it worked … because the dancer-listeners … group the accelerating events into successively larger units, creating an accelerando that slows down.”

This sense of contradiction, and the synthesis that arises when counterbalancing forces are juxtaposed, motivates much of Iyer’s work.

Betraying his Berkeley background, he writes in the album’s liner notes, “If music is action, then it is best heard in context. Today’s context sounds like acceleration: rising inequality, populist revolution, economic crisis, climate change ... as the flow of information gets faster, denser and more intricately networked, our attention shifts to the larger forms, the slower tempos that gracefully evolve like the spiral arms of a hurricane.”


Vijay Iyer Trio

Presented by San Francisco Performances

Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $30 to $50
Contact: (415) 392-2545,

About The Author

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus is a music and high performance audio critic, whistler, and lecturer on opera and vocal recordings. He is editor of Psychoimmunity and the Healing Process: A Holistic Approach to Immunity & AIDS. In addition to writing for the San Francisco Examiner, he has written about music for Opera News,... more
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