September Gigs

On the road again:

10 Chet Doxas trio w. Thomas Morgan @ Bar Bayeux, Brooklyn (record release of You Can’t Take it With You)

mini-tour with Marcy Harriell: Burt Bacharach (and solo piano)

15 Mabel Tainter, Menomonie, WI

16 Crooners, MSP

18 Sandhills BPAC, NC

24 Vinnie Sperrazza trio w. Michael Formanek @ Soapbox

Ethan Iverson plays Chopin…?

Until Wednesday, a video of yours truly playing Chopin for the Mark Morris Dance Group is online on YouTube. (My segment starts at 15:45.)

I’m not giving Arthur Rubinstein any serious competition but it is still a fun watch/listen. Sangfroid starts with Op. 2 no 1 (the worst thing in the world to start with) and ends with the Winter Wind. The Berceuse is…not bad? At any rate, the choreography is wonderful and the music is right there, supporting the dancers.

The year is 2000. My best friend Julie Worden is featured…so is John Heginbotham, who has gone on to be an important choreographer in his own right. The other terrific dancers include Joe Bowie, Marjorie Folkman, Lauren Grant, David Leventhal, June Omura, Mirelle Radwan-Dana, and Matthew Rose. Memories!

There is a long tradition of “Chopin dances” and of course Mark Morris makes the form his own. It’s a truly great dance IMHO. The other two dances on the video, Bedtime and Canonic 3/4 Studies, are also Morris classics. The singer of the Schubert for Bedtime is the legendary Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

Linda Dowdell, Colin Fowler, and I talk about Morris, dance, and piano in a public live-stream on Tuesday.

Dances to Piano Music: A Live Conversation 8PM ET
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
8:00 PM

Register here.

August updates

I’m still working on a big project, back after labor day, but quickly:

Congrats to Billy Hart on becoming an NEA jazz master. For fun, here’s a picture of Billy’s quartet with Joe Sanders and Mark Turner after a gig at the Umbria festival in July…

I am in a nice group of people offering “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love Stravinsky” in the New York Times yesterday.

Thanks to Zachary Woolfe for asking me to participate. Previously, Woolfe pulled me in for “make you love classical music”

and “make you love the piano”

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