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Monday, 30 September 2013 07:57

Charting the Music: Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd, 'Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dream Project'

Charting the Music: Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd, 'Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dream Project'
Written by Travis Dettmann
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Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd mastermind "Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dream Project," 17 grisly nightmares from post-9/11 war veterans turned poetry, backed by an intelligent fusion of hip-hop and jazz.

A war well into its 12th year of violence and destruction has left everyone involved transformed indefinitely. The third collaboration of jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and rap poet Mike Ladd sheds light on those veterans involved, their struggle to overcome hell and rejoin the civilian world.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #2 Jazz for the week of September 24, 2013.

Record label, release date and producer: Pi Recordings released "Holding It Down: The Veteran's Dream Project" on September 10, 2013. It was produced by Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd and Liberty Ellman and was executively produced by Steve Cohen, Seth Rosner and Yulun Wang.

Can be heard on: All Soul, No Borders with Josh Weinstein.

RIYL: Rudresh Mahanthappa, Liberty Ellman and Saul Williams.

Hometown: Rochester, N.Y. and Cambridge, Ma.

Standout tracks: Introducing "Holding It Down," Mike Ladd opens with "Here," a three-minute tale of isolation from loved ones. Predator drones roam throughout "Capacity," the troubles of separating the soldier from the citizen. From adolescence to adulthood, harmless play for Halloween turned all too real at the age of 18 has a sobering effect in "Costume."

About the artists: Mr. and Mrs. Iyer emigrated to the United States, and gave birth to Vijay Iyer about a decade later in 1971. His musical training began on the violin at age 3, then onto piano with his interest in jazz ever increased. He obtained his doctorate from the University of California, Berkley in music cognition, having many of his works in publications such as Wire, JazzTimes and Uptown Conversation. Likemadd Records founder Mike Ladd attended Boston University's English Literature graduate program. Ladd effortlessly incorporated his gift for poetry with his exceptional rap flow, releasing his debut, "Easy Listening 4 Armageddon," in 1997. He released a few more records until joining forces with Vijay Iyer in 2003 to assembled "In What Language?," a project concerning the dehumanization of people in airports currently in the post 9/11 world. Their next installment entitled "Still Life with Commentator" release in 2007, making "Holding It Down" the third effort in a 10-year span.

This label: In 2001, New York native Pi Recordings was founded with the sole purpose to promote revolutionary material from creative artists. Seth Rosner, a former Knitting Factory Works label manager, ultimately formed the company to issue work by Henry Threadgill. In 2002, Yulun Wang joined Pi after meeting with Rosner to discuss their similar tastes in music. The label has also released work by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Steve Lehman and Marc Ribot.

Awards and accolades: In 2009, Vijay Iyer Trio's "Historicity" reached no. 15 on the "Billboard Jazz Albums" chart and earned a Grammy nomination as well as the Echo Award, "German Grammy," in 2010. His first solo achievement, "Solo," peaked at 19 on the "Jazz Albums" chart. In 2011, the collaboration album "Tirtha" touched the 27th mark on the "Jazz Albums" charts. Back as a trio, "Accelerando" hit no. 7 on the "Jazz Albums" chart as well as no. 27 on the "Top Heatseekers."

What the critics say: "At their best, hip-hop and jazz remain most adept at breaking the mold, and the footprints of both genres can be heard on Vijay Iyer's and Mike Ladd's inspiring new album. An ambitious collaboration between one of the most celebrated jazz pianists today in Iyer and poet-MC Ladd, who has worked with a host of underground rap acts including El-P's Company Flow and Saul Williams, 'Holding It Down' is the duo's third in a series of unclassifiable blends of music, theater and spoken word that paint a vivid oral history of post-9/11 America." Christopher Barton, L.A. Times.

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