Ethan Iverson’s Home Page

Do the Gig is the weekly listing of everybody playing in New York.

Bio and press quotes are here. 

Subscribe to my newsletter, Transitional Technology, here.

Selected upcoming gigs of my own =

= July 19 duos (Brahms G major violin sonata) and trios (my own “Tiny Trio” and Piazzolla tangos) with Johnny Gandelsman and Michael Nicolas,  Union Hall, Rockport, Maine, part of Bay Chamber Concerts

= July 27 Duo with Ron Carter in Langnau, Switzerland, part of Langnau Jazz Nights, where I will be teaching all week

= August 2 Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Ben Street at Newport Jazz Festival. That same night I am also part of a piano extravaganza organized by Jon Batiste

= August 13 trio with Dylan Reis and Matt Wilson at Halyards, Brooklyn

= August 17-18 Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Joe Martin at Blue Note Beijing
= August 20-23 Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Joe Martin at Cotton Club, Tokyo
= August 24 duo with Mark Turner at Cotton Club, Tokyo

= August 30/31 trio with Larry Grenadier and Al Foster at Mezzrow, NYC

Do the Math began in 2004 and runs well over a million words. The most significant posts are “pages” and organized by topic.

Interviews: Over 40 discussions, mostly with musicians: Billy Hart, Ron Carter, Keith Jarrett, Marc-André Hamelin, Carla Bley, Wynton Marsalis, many others.

Consult the Manual: Essays especially for students.

Rhythm and Blues: Jazz music essays, including major pieces on McCoy Tyner, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Geri Allen, Bud Powell, Lester Young, many others.

Sonatas and Études: Classical music essays, including major pieces on Glenn Gould and Igor Stravinsky.

Newgate Callendar: A look at a few of my favorite crime writers like Donald E. Westlake and Charles Willeford.

If you want to support Do the Gig and Do the Math and also get updates about gigs, masterclasses, and new DTM posts, subscribe to Transitional Technology.

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Anthology

Billy Lester has a record out; the trio From Scratch with Rufus Reid and Matt Wilson. Producer Elan Mehler explains:

Billy studied with the great pianist and educator Sal Mosca for 16 years. These were intense lessons devoted largely to ear training exercises, transcriptions, and endless harmonic configurations. At the age of 32, Billy found himself in a crisis of identity. After delving so deeply for so many of his formative years into the techniques of Sal (and Lennie Tristano, Sal’s mentor), Billy had no idea what his own musical identity was. One morning, Billy sat down at the piano, closed his eyes and focused on his own emotional state. He found, if he concentrated long enough, that the feelings he had in that moment had their own sound. He reached out one hand and found that note on the piano. This experience, of playing one “true” note, flooded him with gratitude. Billy says that that moment, in his early thirties, is the moment he became an artist.

Lester’s playing is definitely “post -Tristano” and there is weight to his phrases. And what a story! It’s so great that Lester finally documented his unusual art. Relevant webpage is here.

I love mid-century American composers, and through casual researches I’ve heard a bit of Robert Palmer over the years. The Toccata Ostinato played by William Kapell is driving and octotonic; even more to my taste is the romantic Second Sonata recorded by Yvar Mikhashoff on a classic LP alongside other excellent mid-century sonatas by Jack Beeson and Hunter Johnson.

Adam Tendler has released Robert Palmer: Piano Music.

Palmer’s unique musical language combined a deeply emotional impulse with complex counterpoint and rhythmic structures, drawing comparisons to Hindemith, Bartók, Lou Harrison, even Brahms. Aaron Copland famously included Palmer on his 1948 list of seven composers whom he considered “the best we have to offer among the new generation,” a list that included Lukas Foss, Leonard Bernstein, and John Cage.

This recording, the first devoted solely to the work of this enigmatic and still-unsung hero of American composition, comprises the bulk of his landmark piano works.

I’m still assessing all of the music on Tendler’s fine disc. As of now, I definitely declare the compact and rather Chopinesque Second Sonata a keeper, something that will be admired by all those with a taste for American classical piano.

Tendler’s mission is eminently worthy; I fervently wish every composer of note had such a devoted and skilled advocate. Further reading: In Search of Robert Palmer.

Jazz iconoclast Benoît Delbecq is an old friend (see DTM interview); virtuoso classical violinist Mandhira de Saram is a more recent associate. I didn’t expect them to put out an album together but it really works. Mandhira leads the Ligeti Quartet but can also improvise in a contemporary style. At this point, the European scene has many proficient musicians trained in old European idioms who can also perform diverse concerts with absolutely no sheet music. It’s an interesting time. As good as things already are, I’m also excited about the limitless prospects for creative music in a space packed with so much potential kinetic energy.

From the Spinneret Bandcamp page:

Mandhira and Benoît met three years ago in Paris and soon discovered that they loved playing together. They recorded Spinneret in Paris a year later, over a day of quiet, meditative, and sustained sonic crafting, at mysterious distance from the animated music they are both usually drawn to in their own projects. Propelled by a spectacular sense of exploration in sound, time, and texture, together they weave a tapestry of sound which blurs the edges of where one instrument begins and the other ends. With Spinneret, these two internationaly acclaimed players have fostered a new imaginary improvised folklore of slowness that’s unique in many ways.

The music of Scott Joplin is still fresh when played entirely straight. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t need wild new arrangements. Of course we do! Nude Piano
by Petite Feet is an engaging surprise. Ted Reichman’s liner notes (from the Bandcamp page) are helpful.

Shane Simpson, Travis Bliss and Jonathan Starks have used their instruments, their laptops, and their ears to guide this musical contraption into a constantly changing, clangorous, kaleidoscopic mishmosh of time and space.

It’s goofy as hell but you can tell that the performers also simply love the music. Listening to Nude Piano took me back to the first time I heard John Zorn’s Naked City 30 years ago, a moment when so many impossibilities became possible.

For all the masterful jazz on record from its greatest era, there is a dearth of exceptional video. Alan Nahigian sent along an episode of the Afro-Centric TV show Soul featuring a extraordinary cast shot by a team unafraid to let the cameras look closely at the musician’s techniques. From the first moments, a spoken intro over a Freddie Waits drum improvisation, it feels like the door of the time machine closed shut and we are transported back to a hipper, and, frankly, blacker time in the music. Wow. Must-watch TV! I particularly enjoy seeing Waits and Mickey Roker in action during their peak as practitioners.  Just too much.

http://www.shoutfactorytv.com/soul/soul-s1-e9-lee-morgan-horace-silver-bobbi-humphrey/599b6b5d3d3f53151d002be2

Edwin Fischer and Rosalyn Tureck play Bach

All jazz pianists play some Bach. We always have. The wonderful Evan Shinners is in residence all month at his Bach Store and asked me to guest. On Thursday July 11 (tomorrow) at 6:15 I will be playing a mini-set of Bach (Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, F minor suite BWV 823, Fantasy on a Rondo BWV 918) and a few jazz originals.

It is sometimes said that Glenn Gould “invented” Bach for the modern piano. It’s not true, of course. Two of the most interesting and influential 20th century Bach pianists before Gould were Edwin Fischer and Rosalyn Tureck.

Fischer (1886 – 1960) recorded the the first complete traversal of Well-Tempered Clavier from 1933 to 1936. Despite its age this is still an enjoyable listen, especially in the grand or delicate slow movements.

Fischer’s 1924 edition of the Three-part Inventions name-checks both Busoni and Reger, two other European musicians from the early 20th-century seriously impressed with counterpoint. Fischer advises the student:

You should study (sing) every individual voice (the middle voice too, notwithstanding its division between the two hands), and think with pleasure of those bygone times when empty “filling-voices” were unknown, and every voice had its own melodic life.

It’s a fun stance to have, but many of Fischer’s best records are full of “filling-voices.” His Schubert song accompaniments for Elizabeth Schwarzkopf are wonderful and his last record of Brahms with Gioconda de Vito is an important document. Not a big technician, Fischer was nonetheless a favored soloist of Wilhelm Furtwängler, and their lo-fi collaboration in Furtwängler’s own vast concerto is intriguing, all Berlin gloom and doom.

Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is a very important piece in the repertoire but also a bit of an odd duck. It’s not “normal” Bach; rather, it’s a improvisatory toccata followed by a large fugue. Perhaps more than any other Bach work, this piece looks forward to 19th century pomp. Mendelssohn played it during his great Bach revival, Liszt admired it, both composers put scraps of it in their own pieces. Many famous editors published a romantic interpretation: the first time I tried to sight-read the Chromatic Fantasy as a kid it was in Von Bülow’s overblown expansion. If the Italian Concerto was the “Bach piano sonata” of that era, then the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue was the “dramatic and dark piano fantasy actually written by Bach (as compared to an organ transcription).”

The Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is still frequently programmed today but there’s usually a hint of playing to the gallery in the presentation.  The Fantasia remains delightfully fresh while the fugue has a few rather uninspired passages. (I doubt Busoni or Reger would have pointed to this fugue as one with exemplary counterpoint.) Still, it’s the only straight fugue of Bach where a pianist can pound out two bars of left hand octaves in the end. The piece will be successful no matter what; even a student performance is exciting.

Fischer’s recording of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is famous. After auditioning a bevy of other pianists in the last week, I still think his is the best I’ve heard. Fischer is a 19th century musician in love with the lore of Bach and doesn’t need any modern scholarship to build a cathedral of sound. His chops are just up to the task (the Fantasia is easier than it sounds) and the fugal reinforcements in the bass sing bold.

I told Evan Shinners I would play at his Bach Store if he picked some of the repertoire. He suggested the F minor suite BWV 823. What the hell? I thought I knew all the Bach solo works but this piece had never been on my radar. Some of the obscure pieces are justly obscure but BWV 823 is a gem, although definitely unfinished. Not only are the movements incomplete (only three exist) but some of the voice leading in the Sarabande seems incorrect.

When looking for a recording I came across Rosalyn Tureck’s and was immediately impressed. In a few notes she establishes a rarified atmosphere and makes a case for the F minor suite to be played on piano recitals everywhere.

Tureck (1913 – 2003) is now considered one of the most important 20th-century classical instrumentalists born in America. She was famous for her dedication to Bach — Glenn Gould claimed her as “his only influence” — but early on Tureck trained with Leon Theremin (she played a theremin at Carnegie Hall) and worked with modernist composers David Diamond, Luigi Dallapiccola, and William Schuman.

I have valued my CD of Tureck playing Diamond, Dallapiccola, and Schuman for years but somehow I have never really liked her Bach. Her interpretations seemed slow and didactic, with downbeats accented in a rather unswinging fashion. It was rather a relief to come across a Tureck Bach performance that I could love from first contact.

The Tureck BWV 823 can be purchased on Columbia record filled out with Tureck playing student Bach: easy Minuets, Marches, Gavottes and the like, and is now packaged as a double CD with Charles Rosen’s Art of the Fugue (another excellent performance). The whole Tureck recital is delightful and unquestionably swinging. She even pats her foot a bit in the F minor Gigue. I may have found my way in to appreciating the rest of the vast Tureck/Bach discography.

There’s a certain tradition of great pianists changing the score in Bach. Fischer does whatever the hell he wants with the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, that’s a given. It’s more surprising that Tureck ruthlessly discards Bach’s rhythmic notation for the gigue of the F minor suite. Rather than playing it dotted as written, she evens it out. After experimenting, I can see why she does this, the narrative flow is better.

Tureck published various editions of Bach, including three books of An Introduction to the Performance of Bach in 1960. From the introduction:

As long as one remains human there will remain nuances of all sorts, and as long as music remains an art and not a mechanical reproduction, there will always be more than one possibility in details of phrasing, dynamics, tempi, etc., and sometimes possibilities of marked difference in conception, all of them good.

The F minor suite is included in the third volume, and the gigue is dotted there (as it is in every other edition I’ve found). Tureck’s Columbia record is from 1980, so in the intervening 20 years she must have discovered this rhythmic variant and kept it. (I haven’t been able to listen to her first recording of “easy Bach” for EMI from 1960 yet.)

Gigues are notoriously difficult rhythmically. Indeed, all the dances are a bit of a mystery: It would be so helpful to hear Mr. Bach play though one of his suites, for there’s a good chance we have been doing everything wrong for centuries. Still, the gigues are especially confusing. Tureck has a lovely story in David Dubal’s Reflections from the Keyboard:

I remember in my early years, the gigue from the E minor Partita worried me very much. As you know, it’s a most unusual gigue with a very strong character. At the time I was studying with Arnold Schoenberg and I asked him what he thought about it, its characterization and tempo. He looked at it and sang the opening phrase, and I instantly knew I had it. Since I couldn’t ask Bach, I asked Schoenberg; and I’ve always managed in this way.

Shinners also assigned me Fantasy on a Rondo, BWV 918. This is a near miss for Bach.  BWV 918 begins well but goes on and on in two part counterpoint. The master is working out how far he can modulate using self-similar material: Probably he wrote it at top speed, stuck it in a drawer, and forgot about it. BWV 918 is never included in piano recitals and I didn’t find a recording that I found particularly inspiring, especially on piano (honestly, this style of composition works much better on harpsichord). However, I did play it as a kid, so it’s not hard for me to relearn the notes. H’mm. Perhaps there’s room for me to add a bit more of myself to this lesser work? Come by the Bach Store tomorrow and find out…

Vanguard upcoming; Healdsburg and Spoleto in review

Vanguard june flyer

Next week is the first time I’m back at the Village Vanguard with my name at the top since leaving the Bad Plus.

(TBP is playing the same week across town at the Jazz Standard, so the fully committed can check out the status of both scenarios…)

These Vanguard gigs are kind of a bridge between two ECM records, the duo with Mark Turner Temporary Kings and a forthcoming live date with Tom Harrell, Ben Street, and Eric McPherson, Common Practice.

In the year since Temporary Kings has come out, Mark Turner and I have played quite a bit in both Europe and America, finishing up with 8 performances at the top of June on the West Coast and at the Spoleto festival (see below). Mark and I both wanted to really get into the deep duo vibe in the manner of Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, and it’s really coming together. The repertoire includes many originals and a few specialty items like “Giant Steps.” (We will tour Europe again in November.)

With Tom Harrell we will do all jazz standards and common practice forms: There’s no one I rather hear blow on the blues and rhythm changes than Tom, and of course Ben Street and eMac have incredible wisdom separately and together.

Two weeks ago, after a groovy gig at the generous and intimate space at the California JazzSchool in Berkeley, Mark Turner drove us an hour away to Healdsburg.

Jessica Felix has been running the Healdsburg Jazz Festival for over 20 years: Here’s a profile of a life dedicated to jazz. Jessica is old friends with Billy Hart and put on an incredible series of concerts “Honoring Billy Hart” in 2016. Mark and I were involved in those performances, and it was a real pleasure for us to return to Healdsburg as part of Jessica’s series “ECM at 50.”

Andrew Gilbert reviewed the concert for JazzTimes, a double bill with the Carla Bley Trio with Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard. Two full sets without drums might be a big ask for some festival crowds, but the big Raven Theatre was packed with a beautifully attentive audience.

Afterwards the band(s) went to Jessica’s house, where she took one of my all-time favorite photos, a moment where I am sharing dessert with Carla Bley. (An anecdote from our conversation turns up in “Are Polychords Problematic?”)

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Mark and I then flew to Charleston, South Carolina, for six performances at the Spoleto Festival USA. Larry Blumenfeld curates the jazz at Spoleto and is an interesting thinker and important commentator on the music. I’ve read Larry for years.

It’s a rare opportunity to play six concerts in a row in a good venue out on the road in America. Mark and I didn’t even teach or do any community outreach, we simply performed.

Geoff Nuttall from the St. Lawrence String Quartet is in charge of the epic series of chamber music Spoleto presents at the historic Dock Street Theatre. I was in the audience for one program:

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I know Inon Barnatan slightly (hell of a pianist!) and the Fauré Quartet was a pleasure in every way. But the highlight was unquestionably a great piece by Matthew Aucoin, “Dual,” played to death by Joshua Roman and Doug Balliett. Cello and bass duo for the epic win! Aucoin is now on my “must watch” list.

There was quite a bit of press coverage for the duo in Spoleto. Sincere thanks to all the writers!

Previews:

Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson do it (jazz music, that is) better together: Partners in Time (by Vincent Harris)

Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson, in musical conversation, embrace new challenges (by Mike Zawisza)

Reviews:

Jazz duo Turner and Iverson kick off contemplative six-show residency (by Leah M. Suárez)

Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson Bring Chamber Jazz to Spoleto Festival USA (by Hakim Abdul-Ali)

It was also a pleasure to meet and chat with our host, Quentin Baxter, who I know from his great drumming with Rene Marie. A lot of people are involved in making an arts community happen. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Quentin Baxter, me, Mark Turner, Larry Blumenfeld

Jazz te Gast in Review

Jazz te Gast is a festival unlike any other. It takes place in Zuidhorn, the Netherlands, for one action-packed day along a tree-lined street. There are 24 short concerts in the beautiful gardens of the villagers and then a final concert with the Noordpool Orkest on the biggest lawn.

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I was the Artist-in-Residence, and Geert Drion was my contact.

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w Geert Drion

Geert explained: “The festival consists of 8 garden stages in the main street of our village. Each stage will be programmed with 4 sets of 30 minutes, planned to alternate, so four stages will be playing at the same timeslot. 4 of the 8 stages will be filled with new music. The remaining stages will be programmed with existing ensembles. One of these will be a specific talent stage, hosting young local talents, partly from the Prins Claus Conservatoire Groningen.

“Your main partner will be Marike van Dijk: an outstanding young Dutch musician who will be your ‘boots on the ground’ in Holland.”

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w Marike van Dijk

In the end, Marike (a big talent as composer, arranger, and alto saxophonist) did most of the heavy lifting, selecting most of the musicians, programming the stages, and organizing the work schedule. The final concert with Noordpool was conducted by Reinout Douma.

The Jones (Dave Douglas, the previous artist in residence, arr. by Suzan Veneman)
Vesuvius (Marike van Dijk, w. Dodó Kis as rhapsodic EWI guest soloist)
I’m Not a Robot (Marike van Dijk) (I took a pretty good solo in my Mal Waldron style LOL)
Polliwog (James Farm, arr. by Vincent Veneman; w. Tineke Postma as hard-charging guest tenor sax soloist)
My Ideal (Marike and Ethan duo)
The Apprentice (Ruben Samama singing his gentle love song arr. Marike van Dijk)
Will (Ruben Samama wild orchestra piece, w, Dodó Kis and Josephine Bode, guest “noise recorder” soloists)
Ti’Thela Ke S’Agapousa (Petros Klampanis, who also guested on highly rhythmic bass)
Orthodox (Reinier Baas, previous artist in residence, arr by Vincent Veneman)
Solve for X (Ethan Iverson)

I think video and audio of the concert may be forthcoming. At any rate, it was all really great. We began the concert with the town brass band playing the anthem of the neighborhood and the audience singing, a truly glorious moment.

As artistic director, I made sure to get Perfidia Replicata, my trio with Dodó Kis and Josephine Bode, another gig.  Working at the Moers festival last year with these two astonishing recorder players was a highlight. You have to hear this stuff to believe it.

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w Josephine Bode and Dodo Kis

Jozef Dumoulin makes a Rhodes do extraordinary things. Our duo set included abstract renditions of “Blue and Green,” Bach, and boogie woogie.

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Petros Klampanis combines jazz with authentic Greek music. I sweated pretty hard trying to play a fast 3 – 2 -2 for the first time! He’s a great bassist, too.

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w Petros Klampanis

A straight ahead trio with Phil Donkin (who I know from touring with Eva Klesse) and Mark Schilders was just about the only swinging music I heard that day. I think it is important to keep connecting the dots to a resolutely American aesthetic while curating a European festival. Fun set!

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w Mark Schilders and Phil Donkin

The afternoon began with RAIN. We had to play one set of unrepentant free improvisation to make the skies clear. I suggested to the five of us that we begin with a sustained chord. Magically, a pure D minor seventh was spontaneously created out of the mist. We held this chord a long time! So good!

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w Shannon Barnett, Dodo Kis, Marike van Dijk, Tineke Postma

Many thanks to the volunteers of Zuidhorn: Special shout out to Ben van Deel, who is in charge of location and logistics (Ben also knows why he deserves a extra mention LOL).  There’s no reason why a village needs to put on a jazz festival, but, incredibly, Jazz te Gast exists, a magical moment when experimental music and country life interact in unexpected ways.