Temporary Kings (2)

It’s been nice to see so much positive notice of the new record!

In the Wall Street Journal, Martin Johnson finally gave me the pull quote I was waiting for, “[Iverson] has gone from one of jazz’s leading popularizers to one of its leading geeks.” [Wordpress doesn’t seem to support emojis but this is where I would usually insert at least three LOLs]

Ethan Iverson and Mark Turner team up on an austere and elegant album that belongs to a growing field known as chamber jazz..

Tonight and tomorrow we are at Crooners. I was honored that Jon Bream, a legend in Minnesota music journalism, wanted to give me a feature in the Star Tribune.

Former Bad Plus pianist still ‘loves playing in the Midwest’ despite rocketing career.

The Crooners gig is a pick by Britt Robson



And the Jazz Standard on Tuesday is a pick by Giovanni Russonello.

gio temporary kings

Tryan Grillo at the New York Jazz Record is a fan!

NYJR Temporary Kings


I had to laugh at this one:

amazon quote.jpg

If you are a practitioner, it is very important not to pay too much attention to the press.  Good notices are naturally better than bad, but in the end all that stuff is just for the larger machine of “arts career,” not for the artist themselves to sit around and think about. Forward motion is the only answer.

There is a built-in mental “safety brake” in the title of Temporary Kings. Among other meanings, it’s a reference to A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell.

After I tweeted the relevant passage

powell quote

Wesley Stace responded a photo of his first edition. I’m jealous!


The musical character in Dance is Hugh Moreland, who actually dies at the end of  Temporary Kings (the eleventh of twelve books).  Moreland was closely based on  Powell’s friend Constant Lambert.

Last night I played some of Constant Lambert’s Piano Sonata for Mark Turner before the gig at Constellation in Chicago. Mark was cautiously impressed by the harmonies that foreshadow modern jazz to a shocking degree. Good. That little exchange (with a collaborator I value so highly) made me feel like learning the first movement for London Jazz Fest in November is actually a cool move…

Temporary Kings

ECM 2583 is Temporary Kings, a duo with Mark Turner.

ECM link.

With Temporary Kings two of the most distinct voices on today’s jazz scene present their debut on record as a duo: Engaging in inspired dialogue Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson here explore aesthetic common ground in the atmosphere of a modernist chamber music-like setting at the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano. The saxophonist and the pianist had begun their association in the Billy Hart Quartet, where the two players featured sympathetically on two ECM albums by that band. The new duo album now contains six originals by Iverson (among them the nostalgic solo tune “Yesterday’s Bouquet”) and two by Turner (including “Myron’s World,” which has acquired near-classic status among contemporary jazz players). There’s an off-kilter blues (“Unclaimed Freight”) and a strikingly melodic, almost Ravelian opening track dedicated to the town where the album was recorded under ideal sonic conditions (“Lugano”), plus an interpretation of Warne Marsh’s playfully serpentine “Dixie’s Dilemma.”

We are going on tour in America in two swings:


And later in October in Europe. (More on that soon.)

New Yorkers don’t miss the Jazz Standard on Tuesday September 18 it’s going to be GREAT!!! 

Most of my compositional contributions to Temporary Kings can be seen at The Page Has No Sound.


Major Washington Post coverage, thank you Chris Richards!

Link to article, but Chris also tweeted a photo of the print:



Sound Stage Experience — review by James Hale

Jazz Trail – review by Filipe Freitas

Dusted – review by Derek Taylor

Greenman — review by Gary Whitehouse

Rifftides — review by Doug Ramsey

I’m sort of stunned by Dan Ouellette’s profile, “Ethan Iverson: Dynamo at the Crossroads,” in the October DownBeat. Dan talked to Mark Morris, Mark Turner, and Billy Hart for the article.

Link to profile within full mag.

Download PDF:

Ethan Iverson feature – DownBeat

Lo-res photos of the piece:

DanO profile 1Dan O profile 2Dan O profile 3Dan O 4


Very special thanks to Manfred Eicher! And everyone else at ECM. There’s a big team in Munich, but I must especially tip my hat to the New York City ECM all-stars Tina Pelikan and Sarah Humphries. This is partly how it works: Mark and I have a gig: Sarah Humphries thinks ahead to a possible, still unconfirmed record date: Sarah asks local pro Robert Lewis to bring his camera to soundcheck: Now, two years later, we have great photos to go with the CD, press, and tour.

Also, Dan Ouellette works with his editor Bobby Reed at DownBeat. Chris Richards got a go-ahead from his editor at WaPo. There are art directors and other moving parts to create a compelling article at every major publication.

Mariah Wilkins is in charge of the duo’s bookings. Thank you so much Mariah you are AWESOME.

At every tour stop there is a local promoter taking a chance, plus a staff working for love and only a bit of money.

Every person, everywhere, is required for the big picture to work. Sincere thanks to all.

Dates and Places

I was too involved with Wayne Shorter to pay much attention to the Leonard Bernstein centennial. (They were born on the same day.)

I love certain things, of course. A 7th-grade trip to see West Side Story at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre was a signal event in my development. At one point I listened to “Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs” quite a bit; I remember playing that for Mark Turner at my apartment over 20 years ago. Candide has its moments, so does The Age of Anxiety. “Lonely Town” is in my regular repertoire of solo piano pieces, and once I was rehearsal pianist for Joshua Bell when Bell was preparing Serenade (After Plato’s Symposium), which many consider Bernstein’s best concert work.

After all these years I can see the seams, the inexpert counterpoint, the lesser moments of appropriating black culture. But probably Bernstein will forever be at the center of 20th-century American music, and most of the time he does a pretty good job of managing the melting pot.

RIP George Walker. Just this year I played his wonderful early violin sonata with Miranda Cuckson; there is also a DTM interview that was done over email. When preparing for the interview I listened to scads of Walker and decided I loved the tonal music from the 50s best. His later atonal music has obvious excellence, but it might not be as committed as Ralph Shapey or Charles Wuorinen.

Walker was also a virtuoso pianist. The recently released live concert of the Emperor Concerto is shocking, a mighty traversal that ranks with the best. Yet Walker self-produced most of his own studio recordings, and sometimes they are rather raw. When working the violin sonata I learned that the editing of the recording by Walker and his son has a couple of major flaws.

Understanding Walker in totality is difficult. In my view, the best thing to do is acquire Walker’s astounding and masterful book,  Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist. It really should be required reading. And, to tie it in with his slightly older peer: There is a hysterical bit about Lenny.

Mlle. [Nadia] Boulanger also invited her Wednesday class to attend a rehearsal of one of the French orchestras that Leonard Bernstein had been engaged to conduct. The rehearsal was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. At 10:25 Bernstein still had not shown up.

The first work to be played was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5. When he finally arrived, Bernstein began to conduct and play the solo keyboard part from memory. In the middle of the first movement he couldn’t remember the solo part. He didn’t have the score. (Up the creek without a paddle.) The orchestra decided to proceed with the next work, Gershwin’s “American in Paris.” It was reported later that Bernstein had been shopping for a red leather jacket prior to the rehearsal.

Randy Weston has also passed. I’ve never done a deep dive, but everyone who loves jazz knows that Weston is a crucial figure. I especially admire the 50’s work with Cecil Payne, who was a virtuoso contrasting with the thinker, kind of like Johnny Griffin with Thelonious Monk. African Cookbook has some thrilling Booker Ervin and a rare example of the great Ray Copeland. The late solo albums have gravitas and mystery, in a kind of Andrew Hill-to-Geri Allen spectrum, and the disc with Melba Liston arrangements is a major statement. The autobiography African Rhythms with Willard Jenkins is also highly recommended.

There’s nothing for me to add about Aretha Franklin that hasn’t been said better by others — except maybe to note that The Blues Brothers does not hold up! Damn. I loved that movie as a young teenager, but now all I see are flaws.


Alex Ross, The Sounds of Music

Johanna Keller, Pulitzer Compass Key to Mapping American Music

Mark Stryker, Don Was, Dave McMurray Keep Telling Detroit’s Story

Wesley Morris, Aretha Franklin Had Power. Did We Truly Respect It?




Happy Birthday to Wayne Shorter, 85 years young.

New at the New Yorker Culture Desk: Wayne Shorter in 1964.

Night Dreamer

April 29, 1964

“Night Dreamer”
“Oriental Folk Song”
“Black Nile”
“Charcoal Blues”

night dreamer


August 3, 1964

“House of Jade”
“Yes or No”
“Twelve More Bars to Go”


Speak No Evil

December 24, 1964

“Witch Hunt”
“Dance Cadaverous”
“Speak No Evil”
“Infant Eyes”
“Wild Flower”

speak no evil


tweet shorter poll

A few hyper-musicianly extras that didn’t make the final cut of the essay:

The signature Messengers piece is Benny Golson’s “Blues March,” which combined military drums, the blues, and the quick melodic rhythm called the “Scotch snap.” “Blues March” is on Blakey’s breakout record Moanin’ with Lee Morgan; a few years later Shorter began playing it every night on tour. “Charcoal Blues” has that same “Scotch snap.” On the out chorus, Jones marches with four on the snare, a rare example of Jones obviously imitating Blakey.

It’s unclear how much and in which ways Coltrane and Tyner inspired each other in terms of specific harmonic information. In one interview with Bob Dawbarn, Coltrane said, “Tyner plays some things on the piano, but I don’t know what they are.” For the big band album Africa/Brass, Coltrane told his arranger Eric Dolphy to get the voicings from Tyner. Unfortunately, the record label Impulse! did not credit Tyner for creative input. (Adding insult to injury, the jacket listed the pianist as McCoy Turner.) To this day, Tyner might not get enough recognition for his monumental contribution to reshaping jazz harmony. He celebrates his 80th birthday in December.

Night Dreamer begins with the title track, a waltz with Tyner and Jones. One could even argue that “Night Dreamer” is Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” cut with some hard bop. The pentatonic “Oriental Folk Song” also suggests Coltrane and Tyner, and helps clarify how much these musicians were concerned with “world music.” For “Black Nile,” Shorter explains: “I was thinking for the Egyptian civilization which at the time of its greatest achievements was a black civilization…I tried to get a flowing feeling — a depiction of a river route.”

For Juju, on top of the churn, Shorter plays a mix of simple and surreal. It’s a Coltrane band, the tunes are not far from Coltrane either, but the saxophonist is still “As weird as Wayne.” Some of that surreal quality might come from the intellectual jazz crew of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, and, especially, Warne Marsh. While it is impossible to imagine Marsh playing the music on Juju, the way Shorter follows the thread of an improvised line to a surprising yet logical place is far closer to Marsh than Coltrane. (Marsh’s favorite saxophonist was Lester Young, a shared reference with Shorter, who wrote “Lester Left Town” for the Jazz Messengers after Young died in 1959.) The earliest Shorter solo on tape, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” from 1956 with pianist John Eaton (unreleased commercially) sounds quite a bit like Warne Marsh. It is included with the DTM Wayne Shorter interview.


On the modal pieces within Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue the scales relate to each other in a kind of chromatic and sensuous way, just like Debussy and Ravel. This kind of romance was to some extent rejected by McCoy Tyner, whose innovative modal harmony somehow seemed to bypass early 20th century European composition in favor of something more purely rhythmic. Davis wasn’t too pleased about Tyner’s choice, even saying in an interview, “I don’t like the guys who make a livin’ playin’ in the mode…McCoy used to just bang around, and I couldn’t stand that.”


Shorter joined Gil Evans, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock in their admiration for Debussy and Ravel, but he also had other sources for harmony. Ralph Vaughan Williams is someone who used complex harmony in a modal frame that seemed more folkloric — perhaps more like Coltrane and Tyner — than Debussy and Ravel.  In The Jazz Ear by Ben Ratliff, Shorter discusses RVW symphonies (“superhero music”) and “The Lark Ascending” (“I’ve been tracking him since I was sixteen or seventeen”).  In the notes to Speak no Evil, Shorter tells Don Heckman, “I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange, dimly-seen shapes — the kind of places where folklore and legends are born.” This description could also apply to “The Lark Ascending.”

lark shorter


In the liner notes to Speak No Evil Shorter compares “Dance Cadaverous” to Jean Sibelius’s “Valse Triste.” Despite beginning with dramatic dark harmony that seems to come from another planet, “Valse Triste” was somehow a popular hit worldwide in the first part of the 20th century (in both the original orchestra version and in the piano transcription). That dark harmony does not fit Sibelius’s full programmatic concept, and soon the composer resolves into more conventional movement.


Shorter would go on to record the first phrase of “Valse Triste” on The Soothsayer that replaced Sibelius’s easy G major key cadence with a hard bop minor key shout.


Shorter also has cited Erik Satie. Are Wayne Shorter’s most subtle and spare ballads Satie’s “Gymnopédies” redone by a Newark blues musician?


I spent some of late July polling great musicians about their favorite Wayne Shorter record. Speak No Evil was number one and Juju was number two, but there were also significant votes for Night Dreamer, The All Seeing Eye (Shorter’s take on European high modernism), Adam’s Apple and Etcetera (rough ’n ready tenor dates with Hancock), Schizophrenia (a clean and gorgeous straight ahead full band), I Sing the Body Electric (the most experimental Weather Report record), Native Dancer (where Milton Nascimento was introduced to American and European audiences), Atlantis and High Life (diverse fusion projects, each almost symphonic in compositional scope) and the current quartet’s Footprints Live!

Back to my own opinion: Two later one-offs in the Shorter discography that deserve wider recognition are a solo tenor rhapsody on “Thanks for the Memory” from Weather Report’s 8:30 and the through-composed “Terra Incognita” for Imani Winds.


The Culture Desk essay stems back to a first extremely rough draft from about 2000, when I suddenly realized the implications of Shorter taking on different genres in sequence and essentially tried to write about jazz for the first time on a tour bus in Japan. In that embryonic form the essay included the next Wayne Shorter album released as a leader after the 1964 trilogy.

October 15, 1965

“The All Seeing Eye”
“Face of the Deep”
“Mephistopheles” (Alan Shorter)

all seeing eye

If Night Dreamer is in the style of an Art Blakey album, Juju is a John Coltrane album, and Speak No Evil is a Miles Davis album, then The All Seeing Eye keeps the progression going smoothly further into modernism, especially a kind of modernism influenced by what was at that time comparatively recent European composition. The DTM post Evolution (especially a footnote at the end) digs further into this most obdurate style, which I believe was locally inspired by Sam Rivers and Tony Williams (who got it from Sam Rivers). Shorter is on Grachan Moncur’s Some Other Stuff, which is arguably the most extreme example of this aesthetic.

The “smooth progression” theory is undone by two comparatively conventional but still terrific 1965 Shorter sessions that were recorded before The All Seeing Eye but shelved until later, The Soothsayer and Etcetera.  We don’t know why Eye was chosen for the next release. According to Michael Cuscuna, Alfred Lion had no memory about what was left behind for what reasons.

At any rate, it is all great music. I particularly admire Etcetera which has some notably unfettered Herbie Hancock. The title track also has one of my very favorite Joe Chambers performances. (Overall, the Joe Chambers/Wayne Shorter connection seems very important for The All Seeing Eye, Etcetera, Adam’s Apple, and Schizophrenia. Of course Joe Chambers was a great composer as well.)

In the Culture Desk essay, I note some slight uncomfortableness between Elvin Jones and Herbie Hancock on Speak No Evil; A similar tension (which is probably only about comparative unfamiliarity with each other) can be heard between McCoy Tyner and Tony Williams on The Soothsayer.

An interesting pairing with The All Seeing Eye is Contours by Sam Rivers, recorded the same year with an almost identical line up. In the end I almost like Contours better, mainly because the rhythm section is more settled and deals with the mildly complex blowing forms with effortless abstract mastery. However, The All Seeing Eye takes much greater chances structurally and will forever be a fascinating one-off.