Vijay Iyer, Pat Thomas named to best end-of-year lists

08:31 AM, Dec 31, 2012

Fairport native Vijay Iyer has received some prestigious listings for 2012. (JIMMY KATZ)/

Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

Two albums with local connections were honored on prestigious year-end lists in 2012.

In naming the Vijay Iyer Trio’s Accelerando its jazz album of the year, and naming Iyer its artist of the year, the most-respected publication in jazz music, Down Beat magazine, elevates the pianist to the level of a handful of Rochester contributions who have reached the pinnacle of jazz music: names such as vibraphonist Joe Locke, smooth-jazz icon Chuck Mangione and the multi-genre star of the drumming world, Steve Gadd.

The son of Indian immigrants, Iyer was born in Albany and raised in Fairport, playing in the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and attending some classes in music theory and improvisation at the Eastman School of Music while in high school. Iyer, however, is largely self-taught as a pianist, having studied math and physics at Yale and the University of California at Berkeley. The 41-year-old Iyer played the jazz festival here in 2004. Down Beat also named Iyer pianist of the year and “Rising Star Composer,” and named the Vijay Iyer Trio the jazz group of the year, the first time in the magazine’s 60-year history that one musician or group has won five such awards in one year. Iyer was also voted pianist of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Pat Thomas, the drummer for the well-remembered mid-’80s Rochester indie-rock band Absolute Grey, has also hit some end-of-year lists. His Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1967-1974, a wildly diverse compilation capturing the era through the voices of activists from Huey Newton to Bob Dylan, was named No. 7 on Time magazine’s Top 10 list. The accompanying book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975, made No. 4 on Spin magazine’s list of the year’s best music books. After Absolute Grey disintegrated, Thomas lived in Denmark for a year, then used his band connections for a move to California. He now works for the Seattle-area’s vintage-minded Light in the Attic Records.