Naturally avant-garde

evan HZT

Dave Cook at Area 52 studios, Saugerties (photo by Alen Fetahi)

Dave Cook at Area 52 studios, Saugerties (photo by Alen Fetahi)

From Dylan to Mingus to the Tokyo String Quartet, our region has a long history of drawing in musical talent from outside the area to participate in performances, workshops and recording sessions. You name them, they’ve been here. Recently, Evan Ziporyn, Iva Bittová and Gyan Riley, three world-class musicians and composers who make up the newly-formed trio, Eviyan, passed through our neck of the woods to give a well-received performance at Bard’s Spiegeltent followed by a couple of days spent in Saugerties at Dave Cook’s Area 52 Studios to record their forthcoming CD.

Eviyan is Bittová on vocals and violin, Riley on guitar and Ziporyn on bass clarinet. According to the group’s website, these three musicians “join forces to create a soundtrack for the 21st century global village—simple, organic and direct, a music of intensity and lyricism, earthy impact and instrumental virtuosity.”


Exploring the audio tracks on Eviyan’s website is a real treat. The trio’s collective compositions are mesmerizing, evocative and provocative. It’s a multi-layered, engaging sound. Global influences as well as jazz and avant-garde techniques are apparent in the playing of each of these genre-crossing musicians who, between them, have spent decades devoted to their individual musical explorations, performing alongside and drawing inspiration from musicians they’ve met around the world.

According to Ziporyn, Eviyan was conceived about a year ago, when the three musicians, whose paths had crossed over the years, decided to get together and play at Bittová’s house in Rhinebeck.

“I’d listened to Iva since her Nonesuch record came out back in the ’90s and was very inspired by what she was doing,” says Ziporyn. “It was natural, earthy and organic… naturally avant-garde.”

She wrote a big piece for his internationally-acclaimed Bang on a Can All-Stars group. After that, the two did occasional concerts together.

It was a similar story with Riley. Ziporyn met him through his work with Bang on a Can All-Stars and other projects involving the elder Terry Riley. When Terry brought his son Gyan in on a couple of concerts, Ziporyn had the chance to improvise with him. “It was a real mind-meld experience… we had a great deal of rapport. Over time, the natural conclusion was to get the three of us together and see what would happen.”

When it comes to Eviyan, each of the performers contribute compositions which are then collectively tweaked by the ensemble. “We usually have an idea but there is a lot of space for improvising,” said

Bittová. “In every concert, we create something different, something surprising and we are in equal positions.”

Of Eviyan’s compositional techniques, Ziporyn says, “We work with notation in different ways… I’m more precisely notated. One of us might bring in something and someone else will add something that goes with it. We give up personal ownership. I love those moments. We’re like creative soul mates.”

The musicians’ collective palettes reflect their diverse backgrounds. They’ve spent years writing and performing, having been both commissioned composers themselves and the commissioners of new works.

Bittová, a classically trained musician, comes from a musical family in the Moravian province of what is now the Czech Republic. She’s won awards too numerous to mention and performed with an international roster of artists, including Bobby McFerrin, Fred Frith, David Krakauer, Nederlands Blazer Ensemble, the Calder String Quartet and many others.