Vijay Iyer Quartet With Rudresh Mahanthappa | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Vijay Iyer Quartet With Rudresh Mahanthappa

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Vijay Iyer has a reputation as a prescient and original pianist that's rivaled among younger players only by Jason Moran's--and he's earned it for many of the same reasons. Both of them blend postfreedom harmonies, deliciously quirky phrasing, and an unteachable vision; Iyer ups the ante by drawing on his heritage, coloring his compositions and his epic solos with the spirit and occasionally the complicated rhythms (though not the actual forms and scales) of Indian ragas. The 2003 disc Blood Sutra brought his ideas to a controlled boil, and Reimagining, due this week on Savoy Jazz, surpasses it, focusing that brainy energy into gut-grabbing music. The album and Iyer's touring quartet both feature bassist Stephan Crump; drummer Marcus Gilmore, the 18-year-old grandson of legendary stickman Roy Haynes; and alto saxist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who like Iyer is the son of Indian immigrants. Great jazz quartets have often flowered when a bandleading pianist finds a soulmate on sax: Monk and Charlie Rouse, for instance, or Brubeck and Paul Desmond. For Iyer it's Manhanthappa, a former Chicagoan who's been collaborating with him since 1996. Mahanthappa has a fierce attack and flamethrower tone inspired by both Ornette and Steve Coleman, and on last year's Mother Tongue (Pi)--which starred Iyer--he reached a high-water mark of his own. See also Saturday. Fri 5/13, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.

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