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Tyshawn Sorey

Drummer, pianist, composer, and educator Tyshawn Sorey is an expressive performer and recording artist whose work ranges from modern creative jazz and vanguard classical works to experimental rock. His keen ear balances a restrained approach using sparse, intimate, interconnected textures and tonalities with a desire for dissonant, noisy, frictional interplay. He introduced it on That/Not in 2007, alternately adding and subtracting elements with each subsequent album. The Inner Spectrum of Variables, a double disc from 2016, used an unconventional string quartet to explore Sorey's contemporary classical designs. On 2017's landmark Verisimilitude, he virtually erased genre lines between modern classical composition and jazz improvisation. On 2018's triple-length Pillars, he conducted a septet. The following year he released The Adornment of Time as a duo with pianist Marilyn Crispell. In March 2021, Sorey was one of three alternating pianists featured on saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh's Facets; the following month, he appeared on Vijay Iyer's Uneasy. Sorey also released For George Lewis that year, in collaboration with the Alarm Will Sound orchestra, and in 2022, he issued Mesmerism, leading a swinging jazz trio with pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer in a series of covers and standards. He followed it with the live, triple-disc The Off Off Broadway Guide to Synergism, showcasing his trio and saxophonist Greg Osby. Sorey rounded out the year with New Now, an avant-garde trio album with David Liebman and Adam Rudolph. 2023's Continuing was a return to recording with Diehl and Brewer. Sorey and bassist Linda May Han Oh served as Iyer's trio on Compassion for ECM in 2024. Born in 1980 in Newark, Sorey holds an undergraduate degree from William Paterson University and a Master of Arts in Composition from Wesleyan University. He studied composition at the doctoral level at Columbia University and has taught at the School for Improvisational Music, the New School, and Wesleyan University. He is currently a Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with leading his own projects, Sorey has been a regular member of trumpeter Dave Douglas' Nomad ensemble as well as saxophonist Steve Coleman's Five Elements band. He has also racked up extensive performance experience with such artists as Wadada Leo Smith, Misha Mengelberg, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Myra Melford, and Anthony Braxton, among others. As a solo artist, Sorey debuted in 2007 with That/Not, followed by Koan in 2009. He collaborated on several trio albums with pianist Kris Davis and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, including 2010's Paradoxical Frog. He has released several classical-leaning albums on Pi Recordings, including 2011's Oblique - I and 2014's Alloy, and in 2015, he was awarded the Impact Award from the Doris Duke Foundation Performing Arts Awards. The following year, he released his fifth album, The Inner Spectrum of Variables, which showcased his composition for piano trio and string trio. 2017's Verisimilitude found Sorey continuing to blur the boundaries between composition and improvisation and saw him become the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. In 2018, he released the three-part Pillars, and in the fall of 2019, he and pianist Marilyn Crispell released The Adornment of Time, a single 64-minute improvisation recorded almost exactly a year earlier at The Kitchen in New York City. 2019 also saw his participation in guitarist Lage Lund's quartet with bassist Larry Grenadier and pianist Sullivan Fortner on Terrible Animals, released by Criss Cross Jazz. Sorey composed and played on "In Memoriam, Muhal Richard Abrams" for Jennifer Koh's Limitless: Duos Performed with the Composers from Cedille Records. Sorey's run of collaborations continued in 2020. He played drums in organist Radam Schwartz's sextet on Conspiracy for Positivity: Magic Tales and cut the collaborative Invisible Ritual with violinist Jen Curtis. In March, Sorey issued the digital-only Unfiltered, a two-hour, three-part suite for sextet. It was recorded in a single live-from-the-floor session at Firehouse 12's studio by Nick Lloyd and Greg DiCrosta. His lineup included vibraphonist Sasha Berliner, saxophonists Nathan Reising and Morgan Guerin, pianist Lex Korten, and bassist Nick Dunston. Sorey worked with electric guitarist Mike Sopko and bassist Bill Laswell for On Common Ground, a freely improvised session inspired by the original rock power trios Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In March of 2021, Sorey was one of three pianists to appear in alternating duets with saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on Facets. In April, ECM released Uneasy, a trio recording co-billed to Vijay Iyer and Linda May Han Oh. In September, he released For George Lewis, a tribute to the trombonist/composer with the Alarm Will Sound orchestra. Sorey returned to swinging post-bop in July 2022 with Mesmerism. A trio set with pianist Aaron Diehl and double bassist Matt Brewer, it included covers of tunes by Duke Ellington, Muhal Richard Abrams, Horace Silver, and Paul Motian as well as Great American Songbook standards. In October, he issued the live triple-length The Off Off Broadway Guide to Synergism with his trio and saxophonist Greg Osby. It also showcased standards, but they were performed as lift-off points for extended, often fiery improvisation. New Now, in a trio with percussionist Adam Rudolph and saxophonist David Liebman, arrived that December. In 2023, Sorey was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his composition Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) that premiered on February 19, 2022, at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. In June, the Tyshawn Sorey Trio (with Brewer and Diehl) released Continuing on Pi Recordings, providing a counterbalance to Mesmerism. In addition to a cover of Matt Dennis' standard "Angel Eyes," it offered readings of tunes by then-recently deceased jazz icons Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Sorey's mentor and teacher Harold Mabern. In February 2024, the drummer and bassist Linda May Han Oh served as pianist Iyer's rhythm section for Compassion on ECM. A couple of months later, Sorey won a Pulitzer Prize for Adagio (For Leo Wadada Smith).
© Matt Collar & Thom Jurek /TiVo


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