Music
Switched On Pop | Vijay Iyer on why jazz has always been political
A podcast breaking down the music of pop hits.
Switched On Pop
Published 27 May 2021
Vijay Iyer / Photo Credit: Lena Adasheva

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

When you think of jazz, you might think of La La Land, luxury car commercials, or fancy dinner parties. Cool, sophisticated, complex, jazz today seems to signify the epitome of class and taste. For pianist Vijay Iyer, that view gets the music completely wrong. Jazz isn’t cool. Jazz is countercultural. Jazz is alive and relevant. Jazz fights racism and injustice. And for those reasons, maybe we shouldn’t be calling this music “jazz” at all.

With a trio of Linda May Han Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, Iyer has recorded a new album, Uneasy, that continues the defiant political legacy of improvised music. Through songs that tackles the Flint water crisis, the murder of Eric Garner, and social unrest, Iyer connects to the key of issues of our day without saying a word. While his songs speak to our chaotic present and crackle with fierce urgency, they also reach back to elders like John Coltrane, Geri Allen, and Charles Mingus—musicians who never shied away from a fight.

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