Vijay Iyer Profiled

English: The Vijay Iyer Quartet performed an i...

Source: The New York Times.

A self-taught pianist with a scholarly background, Vijay Iyer arrived at jazz stardom through a side door. But in the past five years or so, he has increasingly been invited into some of music’s most rarefied spaces, largely because of his iconoclasm, not in spite of it. Genre definitions have largely dissolved; nondenominational leaders are needed.

Mr. Iyer, 45, won a MacArthur fellowship in 2013 and became a tenured music professor at Harvard the next year. Last month, he led his trio at the Village Vanguard for the first time, a belated but meaningful rite of passage. And for the past week, he has been in Southern California, preparing for this weekend’s Ojai Music Festival, which he curated. The annual gathering is seen as a litmus test, suggesting where contemporary Western art music is headed. Mr. Iyer is the first jazz musician — and the rare artist of color — to serve as music director, a position that rotates every year.