Ethan Iverson’s Home Page


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Twitter is my evil social media drug of choice, where I have more than 14,000 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.


LP Diary (1)

New DTM page: Valuable Jazz Anthologies. Included in the overview:

I Remember Bebop Al Haig, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, Sadik Hakim, Walter Bishop, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Rowles
Cafe Society J.C. Heard, Mary Lou Williams, Edmond Hall, Maxine Sullivan
Chicago’s Boss Tenors Gene Ammons, Tom Archia, Claude McLin, and Johnny Griffin
Jazz Women: A Feminist Retrospective
The New Breed Cecil Taylor, Charles Tolliver, Grachan Moncur, Archie Shepp

Jazz Greats: Art Tatum: The Shout (curated by Brian Priestley)
Jazz Greats: Boogie Woogie: Roll ‘Em (curated by Brian Priestley and Tony Russell)

Now’s the Time

Highly recommended: Vinnie Sperrazza’s online course, History of North American Drumming, 1895-2020. STARTS TONIGHT.

Vinnie’s my man, I’ve learned a lot from him, and will be checking some of this out myself. Sign up here.

RIP Gary Peacock

The great bassist passed away at 85 last week. I recently wrote about his early years for JazzTimes. Gary and I spoke briefly on the phone before publication, he appreciated the comments and said they were accurate.

One to listen for a memorial is December Poems, which is mostly solo, elegiac in tone, and quite gorgeous. All of Peacock’s work with Paul Bley is by definition outstanding. However the last disc of the ’60s, Mr. Joy with Billy Elgart, is a notable masterpiece and should be better known.

Peacock is now most famous for the extraordinary trio with Keith Jarrett and Jack Dejohnette. All their records have value, but I will always have a special soft spot for the freewheeling early sessions, the 1983 studio music, Standards Live, and Still Live.

Bird at 100

It’s been a while since I’ve done a major multi-part DTM deep dive, but tomorrow is an important date….

Featuring interviews with six vital musicians, one guest post, a new piece of Iverson pedagogy, and a glance at Bird in print.


1) Charles McPherson and Steve Coleman

2) Tom Harrell and Mark Turner

3) John Scofield

4) Bertha Hope

5) Live Bird is the Best Bird (by Mark Stryker)

6) Bird is the Word (five famous solos and commentary)

7) Words about Bird (reception history, featuring Hampton Hawes)

Boogie Backbone

Jazz historians tend to see America as an integrated society, but that wasn’t the case for a long time. (Perhaps our country is still not integrated to this day.) A corrective to the narrative can be found in Soul Jazz: Jazz in the Black Community, 1945-1975 by Bob Porter. I’m learning a lot from this excellent book.

In the post-war era, as the big bands faded away, the black musicians that wanted to experiment with abstraction went into bebop while those that wanted a steady paycheck went into R&B. All the musicians essentially knew the same information, and there was plenty of interplay between the two styles. Bebop groups could still play dances and R&B groups had plenty of virtuosity. Someone like John Coltrane could work in both idioms proficiently: two of Coltrane’s early jobs were with Dizzy Gillespie (bebop) and Earl Bostic (R&B).

Porter discusses Hal Singer as a key figure. Singer turned one hundred late last year in Paris; according to Wikipedia, “He is the last surviving male survivor of the Tulsa race riot.”

Singer’s “Cornbread” was a no. 1 Race Records hit for the Savoy label in 1948. It’s one of the earliest “honking sax” pieces and proved to be wildly influential. You can hear all of ’50’s rock and roll coming out of “Cornbread.”

R&B owes a lot to the driving left hand ostinatos of boogie woogie. Collecting examples of jazz piano greats playing boogie woogie is one of my hobbies, so I was delighted to learn the groovy shuffle powering “Cornbread” is performed by Wynton Kelly, all of 16 at the time.

Tootie Heath told me about playing house parties and dances in Harlem with Mal Waldron in the ’50s, where they dealt in exactly the same style as “Cornbread.” “We played that shuffle all night,” Tootie said. (Walter Davis offers this kind of two-handed lope on “Greasy” from Jackie McLean’s New Soil in 1959; thanks to Mark Stryker for the tip.)

Back to 1948, Elmo Hope gets more of a piano feature with Joe Morris on “Boogie Woogie March.” The band is stocked with major modern jazz stylists including Johnny Griffin, Percy Heath, and Philly Joe Jones.

(If you are wondering why the ’50s Miles Davis groups with Philly Joe Jones had such superlative feel, the drummer’s immaculate shuffle with Joe Morris may provide part of the answer.)

I’d never guess that as Elmo, but I’d have at least a tiny shot at guessing that it was Sun Ra playing boogie with Wynonie Harris in 1946. Herman Blount is just a little “out” on “Dig this Boogie.” (“Out” in good way, of course.)

Hank Jones might have played in some R&B bands, I’m not sure. At any rate Hank recorded a distinctive minor-key boogie (replete with train effects) for his otherwise conventionally great 1958 jazz LP The Talented Touch, “Let Me Know.”

By 1958, boogie had pretty much had its day, gone the way of ragtime and Harlem stride. Oscar Peterson might have been the only major jazz practitioner to steadily keep some boogies in rotation, although Keith Jarrett has occasionally glanced at the style.

Benny Golson gave us a rare exception when he and Art Farmer re-formed the Jazztet in the 80s. Golson’s surreal “Jam ‘n Boogie” featuring excellent pianist Mickey Tucker is on the Jazztet’s 1983 album Nostalgia. Tucker also recorded a version on Blues in Five Dimensions. On both recordings, Tucker plays a few “straight” choruses at the top before the modernist hard-bop ethos kicks in.

At the height of the pre-war boogie craze, back in the late ’30s and early ’40s, the acknowledged specialists of the style included true masters like Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, and Jimmy Yancey. Yet most of the name jazz pianists played and recorded at least one boogie, including Earl Hines, James P. Johnson, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner (whose 1944 “Boogie Woogie Boogie” includes some bebop harmony) and the rest.

A particular favorite of mine is “Little Joe from Chicago” by Mary Lou Williams from 1939. Last week for my socials I casually tracked a “play along” with the track slightly sped up (117%) and the pitch lowered 12 cents.

(Thanks to Hyland Harris for recommending the Bob Porter book and for finding the Wynonie Harris/Sun Ra track.)

Quarantine Projects (2)

Tonight at 8 PM (EST) I’m going to check out Malaby / Hébert / Mintz: The Under Turnpike Trio at Arts for Art. Tony Malaby’s blurb is inspiring:

In 2016, Billy Mintz, Hill Greene, and I were supposed to play one of AFA’s InGardens sets but were cancelled because of noise complaints. On our way home to New Jersey, Billy and I played two long and fulfilling sets under the turnpike. When the pandemic started we talked about meeting there and hitting as soon as things calmed down a bit. One afternoon, John Hébert called with that desperation to hit and play music so we organized the first Under the Turnpike session and have met there since. The noise of traffic from the turnpike above and skateboarders’ crashing boards has become part of our sound. I’m so happy to have this place close by and share it with two of my oldest friends. – Tony Malaby

As any serious DTM reader knows, Scott Wollschleger is one of my favorite “new” composers, and I’m very happy that Steve Smith featured Scott and pianist Karl Larson for the post “Double Vision” at Night After Night. The substantial interview is a goldmine, and of course the music (which sees YouTube release thanks to quarantine conditions) is wonderful.

Matthew Guerrieri has been meditating on Bach (among other things), joking, “I have been doing my part to uphold the classical-music hegemony by practicing Johann Sebastian Bach under lockdown—practically a cliché at this point, but when has that ever stopped me before?” The whole post is delightful.

My quarantine “Carolina Shout” is up, I’m pretty pleased with it. Among the props is a David Nyvall sculpture on loan from Daniel Pinkwater.

Oh, and “All the Things You Are” anagrams as “Reheating a Holy Lust.” (Just thought you should know that.)