Sundar Viswanathan is an award winning and multiple JUNO -nominated jazz and world artist, and as one of Canada’s most diversely talented artists, a highly respected international musical ambassador and educator. Equally comfortable within jazz and world music as a saxophonist, flutist, bansurist, composer, and vocalist, his work on standard compositions and original material has been heard on stages from Tokyo’s ‘Shinjuku Pit Inn’ to the Netherlands’ North Sea Jazz Festival; from San Francisco’s ‘Yoshi’s’, to New York City’s ‘Blue Note Jazz Club’; and from the ‘Awesome Africa Festival’ in South Africa to the ‘Rocking Walrus Festival’ in Igloolik, Nunavut.
Born in India and raised in a musical family, Sundar’s first musical memories are from his early childhood – his household was filled with the sounds of Indian classical and popular music, and western pop and country artists, like the Beatles, and Jim Reeves. In fact, his earliest influences in music came from non-jazz sources: artists like Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Elvis, The Police, Queen, Simon and Garfunkle and Michael Jackson played a strong role in shaping Sundar’s perspective on music. A love for jazz developed later, during Sundar’s undergraduate studies.
Within and outside his studies, Sundar developed his unique musical personality over several years, performing and/or recording with jazz and world music greats that include Wynton Marsalis, Dave Douglas, Rez Abbasi, Charles Tolliver, Frank Foster, Andrew Hill, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, Kiran Ahluwalia, Billy Hart, GURU, Yair Dalal, Kenny Werner, Don Thompson, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Vijay Iyer, Marcus Roberts, Chris Potter, John Hicks, Marcus Belgrave, Jim McNeely and many others. Within the academic world, Sundar’s teachers/mentors have included Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Cecil McBee, John McNeil, Phil Woods, Janet Lawson, Frank Foster, Barry Harris, David Baker, Pat LaBarbera and others. Studies at Humber College (Toronto), Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo), New England Conservatory (Boston) and NYU have led him to earn a Diploma, Honours Bachelors, a Masters, and a PhD in jazz, classical and world music performance and composition. Sundar is currently an Associate Professor of Jazz at York University in Toronto.
As evidenced by the diversity of his working ensembles, Sundar’s musical expertise ranges widely. “What a Dream I Had”, as presented by SUNDAR QUARTET presents fresh instrumental and vocal interpretations of standard and popular repertoire: his vocal work has been celebrated by the Toronto Star as “a cross between Kurt Elling and Chet Baker”. Alternately, his original recordings stretch the boundaries of world-jazz: “Hope and Infinity” from 2007, with SUNDAR’S INDUSWEST PROJECT, features an A-list of this country’s jazz heavyweights in a fusion of Indian melodic aesthetic with jazz rhythms and improvisations, and ‘Petal’, the critically acclaimed 2016 debut recording with Sundar’s AVATAAR band is a winner of a 2016 TD Special Projects award from the Toronto Jazz Festival. Sundar is also an integral member/composer of the twice Juno-nominated world band Jaffa Road. This group was also the recipient of a Canadian Folk Music Award and a Grand Prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
Sundar’s mix of confidence and humility, combined with astonishing technique and a voice that is the equal of his instrumental and compositional prowess, make him one of the most sought after and engaging live performers in Canadian jazz and on the international stage. To him, music is a passport to creative collaboration and enlightenment on a global scale, as a performer, composer, and scholar.