Composer/Drummer Sorey MA ’11 is “The Maestro”

Drummer and composer Tyshawn Sorey MA’11 is the subject of an article in JazzTimes by David Adler. Sorey will return to Wesleyan as an assistant professor of music in the fall semester of 2017. (Photo by John Rogers.)

Drummer and composer Tyshawn Sorey MA’11 is the subject of an article in JazzTimes by David Adler, who calls him “multifaceted and restlessly evolving.” Sorey will return to Wesleyan as an assistant professor of music in the fall semester of 2017. (Photo by John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11 is the subject of a Nov. 26 article published in JazzTimes titled “Tyshawn Sorey: The Maestro.”

“It’s something to see,” writes David Adler for JazzTimes. “A fired-up young sideman blossoms into one of the most multifaceted and restlessly evolving artists of our time at age 36. It’s hard to tally just the most recent accomplishments.”

His accomplishments include premiering a work—Sorey on piano and drums—at the Ojai Festival in California that had been commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at the Ojai Festival in California last February—and another ICE commission is upcoming. His Alloy trio (pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Christopher Tordini) not only played a weeklong gig at the Village Vanguard, but has a work commissioned by the Newport Jazz Festival, which Sorey will release soon, containing material from his stint at the Vanguard.

In June he released The Inner Spectrum of Variables (Pi), a two disc set, in which Sorey, Smythe and Tordini, are joined three additional string players—a double trio. He told Adler, “‘This was the CD where I felt, coupled with my experience as a student working with [composer] Fred Lerdahl [at Columbia University], that I was really being myself and feeling I should embrace the difference between myself and my colleagues. And that I should embrace the connections that I have with other forms of music.”

In the article, Adler traces Sorey’s early interest in music, from crafting a drum set in early childhood, to the first real set his grandfather bought him—with the admonition to use it. He used to listening to all genres of music on the radio in the wee hours, recording his favorites on a tape cassette. He earned his bachelor’s degree at William Paterson College of New Jersey. At Wesleyan, he studied with mentor Anthony Braxton and explored Japanese taiko drumming, the music of Ghana, and found himself a cohort of free-thinking musicians that include Mary Halvorson ’02. He also met and married fellow ethnomusicology student Amanda Scherbenske MA ’07, PhD ’14, who was leading the Klezmer band.

He recalled his work with Braxton was particularly important and told Adler:  “'[Anthony] would let me conduct his ensemble classes and also the concerts, … Sometimes he and I would split the conducting duties. I found a sense of freedom working with Anthony’s music, which is very highly structured. When I started to alter the structure of his pieces, he allowed me to have that flexibility even with his own music. I’d never seen a composer do that before. That gave me the opportunity to grow as a spontaneous composer.’”

Now earning his doctorate at Columbia, Sorey will return to Wesleyan next fall, an assistant professor in the music department.