Ethan Iverson’s Home Page

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Twitter is my evil social media drug of choice, where I have more than 17,000 followers.

At the moment you are looking at Do the Math, a blog (but really more like an internet magazine) that began in 2004 and runs well over a million words.

The most significant DTM posts are “pages,” 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: Lessons, mainly material written for my piano students at New England Conservatory of Music.

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

Sonatas and Études: Classical music essays about Glenn Gould, Igor Stravinsky, a few others.

Newgate Callendar: Crime fiction essays about Donald E. Westlake, Charles Willeford, a few others.

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


Summer Break

I’m going dark on DTM and my socials for July and August — although I probably can’t resist posting occasional tour photos to Instagram


July 3: duo with Ingrid Jensen at Soapbox Gallery. Streaming and a few in-person seats.

July 9: New work in Perugia, about 50 minutes in duration, for two trumpets, two trombones, two saxophones, flute, clarinet, piano, bass, and drums.

Ritornello, Sinfonias, & Cadenzas

“For this major premiere at Umbria Jazz Festival, Ethan Iverson offers a tuneful exploration of musical techniques usually thought of as belonging to ‘classical music,’ but in this case played by a crack team of Italy’s finest jazzers. ‘Ritornello’ means ‘return,’ a recurring fanfare in the baroque style. ‘Sinfonia’ is a diminutive symphony, a gateway to diverse sonata forms. For the “cadenzas,” Iverson and drum legend Jorge Rossy will rhapsodize against the ensemble. The instrumentation is modeled on Stravinsky’s Octet (with saxophones in for the bassoons) plus rhythm section.”

The next night begins a short tour of the Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Joe Sanders, and myself.

July 10 Umbria Jazz Festival
12 Paradiso Jazz
13 Milano Blue Note
14 Augsburg Botanical Garden
16 Bürgerhaus Unterföhring
17 Lublin Jazz Festival

July 21: Reed’s Ramble with Seamus Blake, Chris Cheek, Matt Penman, and Jochen Ruckert, Svendborg Jazz Festival

July 24: trio with Nils Bo Davidsen and Jeppe Gram, Odense Jazz Festival.

If you see me out there, by all means say hi!

Two concerts I attended in recent weeks were memorable.

Bruce Harris led a nice quartet at Club Norwood with Peter Bernstein, Alexander Claffy, and Kush Adabey. The cats were dealing on hip repertoire like Randy Weston’s “Saucer Eyes” and Woody Shaw’s “Sweet Love of Mine.” At one point Samara Joy sat in for two tunes including “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was,” and I burst into tears. Sarah felt it too: A star is born.

My friend Miranda Cuckson played a solo violin recital at Bargemusic of Iannis Xenakis, Michael Hersch, Georg Friedrich Haas, Aida Shirazi, and Carlos Simon. It was typically brilliant programming from Miranda, with an emphasis on microtonality, especially “bluesy” during two authentic masterworks, Xenakis’s Mikka S and Haas’s de terrae fini. I had no shame and snapped a post-concert candid:

Speaking of shameless, I had cheeseburgers with Lawrence Block the other day and made him take a selfie afterwards.

It was good to see my brother Spencer last month. I am his co-guardian and hadn’t managed to get to Duluth since January 2020.

I admit I practiced a lot during lockdown. At a few points I even interrogated this classic trio:

After Stanley Cowell passed, I licensed this photo from John Rogers, taken a few years ago at the Village Vanguard. From left to right: Fred Hersch, Iverson, Cowell, Jason Moran.

The next trio date is in the can, recorded in January, with Larry Grenadier and Jack DeJohnette.

One of the biggest influences on my criticism is drummer/historian Hyland Harris. Hyland is old pals with Mark Turner — they were at Berklee together — and late last year Hyland had us over to the Louis Armstrong House in Queens. Afterwards we hung for several hours talking jazz, jazz, jazz. As well as I know Mark, I still feel like a little kid at Christmas when maestro Turner decides to open up and discuss aesthetics. These are two of the best, right here:

2021 DTM:

North American Ballads and Squares (Frederic Rzewski)

There is Only Today

Interview with Jeff “Tain” Watts

Ethan Iverson plays TV Themes

Contemporary Composition (Lowell Liebermann, Thomas Adès, Matthew Aucoin, Timo Andres, Chris Cerrone, Scott Wollschleger)

Original Sheet Music of Two Dozen Jazz Standards

Mwandishi Time

Back to Babbitt (with Erik Carlson)

Interview with Alex Ross (and Wagnerian Piano)

Shades of Jazz (Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman)

2021 other places:

Billie Holiday, Technician

Eubie Blake

McCoy Tyner as sideman

Ron Carter in the early 80s

Pete La Roca (as told by Steve Swallow)

Ralph Peterson with Geri Allen

A Writer Prepares

Belated birthday wishes to Lawrence Block (the actual day was yesterday). His new book is a wonderful memoir full of amazing details from the start of his career. When it first came in, I thought, “Let me just take a quick look at the first few pages,” but then I read the whole thing in one go. Thank you LB!

A Writer Prepares.

Hemphill, Josquin, and others

Audio has surfaced of Julius Hemphill being interviewed by Terry Gross in 1976.

As I listened I made a few quick notes:

…Hemphill talking about the great American artists on the juke box in Fort Worth in 1948: Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker; also T-Bone Walker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Al Hibbler….Agrees with interviewer that he shares a “Texas” ethos with Ornette Coleman…Billy May arrangements require a certain consistent sax thing that Hemphill has never tried 😆…Hemphill worked in blues bands. Bobby Bland and Lloyd Price played the blues first and made top-20 records second. The blues is infinitely flexible….On the AACM: Hemphill praises the title and the concept. BAG came out of AACM. “Most people who chose a creative path don’t get to pick and choose” gigs and events. Banding together is a way forward…He moved to NYC from St. Louis to “find a broader base for development.” Not enough going on in St. Louis, which he describes as “landlocked”…Interviewer asks about Hemphill’s multimedia activities. He says he’s learned a lot from poets, dancers, writers, and others. “Greatest kind of experience”…”you might not know the historical material” of the other arts but “still the connections” are right there. Says they made a film in St. Louis — or rather that they got it all together with costumes and mixed-media, movie didn’t get made, but that experience led to May ’75 Edison theatre in St. Louis: THE COON TOWN BICENTENNIAL MEMORIAL SERVICE with Fontella Bass, dancer, and others. Musicians on stage, from roadhouse blues to Sunday morning church radio to avant. The musicians also took up a collection from the audience. Hemphill credits Baikida Carroll with composition and direction…Recent mixed media piece in NYC was Mother’s Day, VOODOO DONE IT. (or maybe HOO DOO DONE IT.) “A man is unable to participate in a funeral service thanks to red tape.” Staged in Harlem….Hemphill says Lester Bowie’s FAST LAST was where he met Michael Cuscuna, which led to THE HARD BLUES on Arista (which is one of the pegs of this interview). Hemphill breaks down a question about producers in a frank way. This bit about producers is really good IMO…interviewer asks about fusion — Hemphill says it has always been hard to record creative music, and that he thinks it is actually getting easier…Part of HARD BLUES is from DOGON A.D. session, Hemphill has brought a copy of DOGON to play on the radio. Band for Foxhole in upcoming Philly gig is Phillip Wilson, Abdul Wadud, Olu Dara….”A.D.” from “Dogon A.D.” means “Adaptive Dance.” Hemphill was inspired by African dance when composing.

Alex Ross (DTM interview) has outdone himself with a penetrating essay on Josquin Desprez, which in the print issue of the New Yorker goes under the thrilling title “Opus One.” There is also a helpful listening guide. Amazing! It is really and truly wonderful that Alex has a brightly lit platform where he can get this deep.

(Always remember to click on the worthy arts articles, it is only way to ensure they will continue to appear in commercial spaces…)

Barney McCall has issued a Dewey Redman recording along with substantial comments about Maestro Redman.

I should have written something for the Erroll Garner centenary last week. At some point I will weigh in properly, but for now: “Frantonality” is an underrated Garner original from his early days, a lazy stride in Ab minor, the only example I can think of this key from this peer group. Garner’s compositional hook at the end of every A section is G triad to Ab minor, an unforgivably parallel progression that makes the song “pop.” Of course, the pianism is otherworldly throughout, but that was business as usual for Garner. It is the original composition that is particularly notable in “Frantonality.”

Rob Schwimmer turned me on to something quite extraordinary I’d never heard before: Yelena Bekman-Shcherbina playing Scriabin’s Waltz op. 38. The music is already unique, but then the pianism makes it something even more rarified.

As many people know, the old BBC serial I, Claudius is great! Gorgeous theme by Wilfred Josephs…Derek Jacobi is the star, and he’s wonderful, but Sarah and I were perhaps most astounded by Brian Blessed as Augustus, a complex portrayal indeed.

Spent the last few days reading contemporary crime fiction….

I can’t recommend James Ellroy’s latest, Widespread Panic, unless you are perhaps new to the Demon Dog. For me it was a retread of familiar ground without fresh inspiration. My fav Ellroy remains L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark is well done and memorable, it had some of Thomas Perry’s cat-and-mouse but with a 2020 twist.

John Sandford is surely one of the few big bestsellers whose work has steadily gotten better over the years. His “new” character Virgil Flowers is more durable than Lucas Davenport. Bloody Genius is satisfying entry in the long-running series.

I rank Michael Connelly a notch below Sandford but read him when I find him. For what it is, The Reversal is good: the unsentimental lawyer Mickey Haller may have been the best thing to happen to scenery-chewing detective Harry Bosch.

One by One by Ruth Ware is a classy and contemporary take on the old-school claustrophobic whodunnit. Fabulous….although the closing climatic action scene felt tacked on, a typical problem in a modern thriller — a flaw that occurs in Bloody Genius and The Reversal as well.

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor went down easy, in fact I stayed up late to finish. A genuinely exciting page-turner! While not a supernatural tale, it is nonetheless is indebted to Stephen King’s It, to the point where King’s blurb “…if you like my stuff, you’ll like this,” feels like a barb. It’s no problem, for The Chalk Man is Tudor’s first book and everyone uses models. Tudor brings the threads together beautifully at the end, and I haven’t stopped thinking of the final pages.

Lone Wolfe Podcast

I had good time talking about all things Rex Stout for the Like the Wolfe podcast hosted by Jeff Quest. There’s also quite a bit about Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Lawrence Block, The X-Files and other sundry matters. When I listened back I thought Jeff did a good job with the edits and that I sounded…pretty smart?!? Anyway, if you like reading my crime fiction criticism, check it out.

(Also available on all podcast apps, search “Like the Wolfe.”)

Mark Stryker continues Chronology

Must read: Mark Stryker on Freddie Redd. Beautiful. We need Stryker’s critical voice in this music.

The previous columns were all written by myself. Thanks again to Vinnie Sperrazza for the name “Chronology,” which is a great Ornette Coleman tune as well as an appropriate title for this series…

  1. James Newton
  2. John Scofield, Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum
  3. Mary Lou Williams
  4. Don Cherry
  5. Charli Persip (RIP since publication)
  6. Shirley Horn
  7. Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, and Richard Wyands
  8. Bertha Hope
  9. Gary Peacock (RIP since publication — I spoke to Peacock before posting and he signed off on the article.)
  10. Jimmy Lyons
  11. Wynton Kelly at Left Bank
  12. Paul Desmond
  13. Old and New Dreams
  14. Larry Young and Woody Shaw
  15. Jacob Garchik and Andrew D’Angelo
  16. Meredith D’Ambrosio
  17. Eubie Blake
  18. McCoy Tyner as sideman
  19. Ron Carter in the early 80s
  20. Pete La Roca (as told by Steve Swallow)
  21. Ralph Peterson with Geri Allen

A Faint Patriotic Beat

George Packer tries to make sense of the current condition in The Atlantic: “How America Fractured Into Four Parts.” An interesting read. I admit that — despite everything — I identify as a patriot and as an American. Particularly I identify as an American artist, a concept that I find irresistible…

The Packer article pairs smoothly with a fresh interview with Anthony Braxton. Braxton loves being an American: Certainly Braxton’s music couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

Bill Evans at the Bohemia

While reading Dustin Mallory’s dissertation on Philly Joe Jones, I was brought up short by this quote from Bill Evans, which was is from a 1979 radio interview with Ross Porter, apparently discovered by Sean Gough for his dissertation on Evans.

“…Somebody gave me this last year, these live dates from the Bohemia, it’s with Miles, and Coltrane, Paul Chambers,Philly Joe, and myself: the original quintet except I’m in place of Red Garland. Let me put this on for a second. And it was quite a surprise to me to find the groove I was getting into with Philly Joe and Paul during the piano solos.

“…I can’t find myself playing like this, in this groove, with this kind of structure and feeling, anyplace else in my recorded jazz scene, and I’ve made, you know, close to a hundred albums between my own and other people. There’s no groove just like this…”

I checked out “Bye, Bye, Blackbird.” The piano solo starts at 4:45. Smokin’. Probably I could still recognize it as Bill in a blindfold test, but it’s certainly a notable solo!

My favorite Bill solos where he is “swinging” probably remain the elliptical utterances on the Half Note session with Konitz, Marsh, Garrison, and Motian, where he’s loosely imitating Tristano. Further DTM thoughts on Evans here.