Tyshawn Sorey

Doris Duke Impact Award, 2015

New York, NY

Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Tyshawn Sorey blends composition and improvisation across a variety of styles and genres. As an instrumentalist, he is known for his skillful open, groove-oriented, and through-composed forms and for his virtuosity on drums, piano, and trombone. The International Contemporary Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, and TAK Ensemble have performed his compositions, which integrate African diasporic, Western classical, and avant-garde musical forms. As a bandleader, he has released four critically acclaimed recordings. The most recent, Alloy (Pi, 2014), features a half-hour-long work and explores extremes of sonic sparseness and density. He has been selected as a Danish International Visiting Artist (2013) and for the Other Minds Residency (2012). He has lectured on composition and improvisation at Columbia University, Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, and Hochschule für Musik Köln, among other institutions. In Spring 2016, he will release his latest album The Inner Spectrum of Variables, which features a piano trio with a string trio, and premiered in Brooklyn in December 2015.

  • Photo Credit: Catu Hardoy
  • Photo Credit: Raymond Boyd
  • Acts (2010)
  • Tyshawn Sorey- Copenhagen, Pt. 3 (2013) and Ornations, Pt. 2 (2014): https://soundcloud.com/tyshawn-sorey/new-york-copenhagen-pt-3-2013ornations-pt-2-2014
    Copenhagen, Pt. 3 (2013) and Ornations, Pt. 2 (2014)
  • Tyshawn Sorey- "Movement” from Alloy (Pi, 2014): https://soundcloud.com/tyshawn-sorey/movement-excerpt-2
    "Movement” from Alloy (Pi, 2014)
  • Photo Credit: Michael Parque
  • Photo Credit: John Rogers
  • Photo Credit: Krzysztof Machowina

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

Logically extending my musical upbringing, my creative output relies on the convergence of myriad performance traditions. This type of work, however, presents its own set of challenges. As my work synthesizes a wide spectrum of genres and, simultaneously, contests extant aesthetic constructions of place; it is a considerable undertaking to garner greater visibility for its performance and reception. I aim to carve out significantly more time for composition, practice, and promotion, activities that are all fundamental to presenting and advancing the vitality and visibility of my work. In addition, it is my hope to publish musical scores, recordings, and written literature on my music to make it more known and knowable to a wider public. Finally, I seek to contribute to creative excellence by balancing improvisation and formal structure through a body of work that is at once personal, direct, and visceral.