Bud’s Birthday

One of the “big” DTM cycles is Bud Powell Anthology. I’m very proud of this collection of transcriptions and opinions, they are also due for another tough edit. Here are four fresh bits and pieces that I plan to integrate in the future.

  1. I transcribed “Glass Enclosure” (Download Glass Enclosure – Score)

glass e page

2. Emmet Cohen sent me “Big Band Blues.” I thought I heard everything significant Bud recorded, but somehow missed this astounding track. Bud plays thick mysterious block chords — perhaps funkifying George Shearing? — before launching into what must be the most relentless collection of double-time lines on record before John Coltrane. Truthfully, I think Bud is “practicing,” not “performing,” on this track, but it’s still a hell of a document.


3. Red Sullivan sent me harrowing video of Bud Powell’s funeral procession.

4. A student brought in “Oblivion” the other day. I asked if they had heard Geri Allen’s version, which I included as one of the top Powell covers at the end of articles. I’ve been thinking about Keith Jarrett and bebop quite a bit, and must admit that Jarrett’s “Bouncing with Bud” with Gary Peacock and Jack Dejohnette misses the mark.  These musicians are all so great, of course, but the pianist just isn’t the right zone, and I’m not sure why.

Charlie Haden and Paul Motian are another Keith Jarrett rhythm section, and the “Oblivion” with Geri is just in the right space from all three. Amazing. Here’s the marvelous piano solo that ends with the perfect “bop judo chop” after fierce abstraction:



Liszt in the Catacombs

At Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn last night, I heard Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler perform the cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses by Franz Liszt as part of the series The Angel’s Share,  produced by Death of Classical and Green-Wood, curated by Andrew Ousley.

After gathering at the cemetery entrance, Ousley took us on a long walk through darkening shadows. It felt like the beginning of a horror movie, as if only one of the audience was going to return from the torments awaiting the unsuspecting participants.

The concert space in the catacombs is more or less ground level, giving the feel of a chilly mausoleum.  It’s a tiny space; too small, really, but since we were enclosed in stone, the piano resonated in a wonderful fashion. I have rarely had such an immediate sonic experience at a piano concert.

Only two of the set Harmonies poétiques et religieuses are heard frequently, “Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude” and, especially, “Funérailles.” Lin played both to the hilt; I suspect she’s had “Funérailles” in her repertoire a long time. (You could hear the audience catch their breath after the famous furious left hand octave cascades.) While the rest of the cycle may lack the immediate appeal of the two “hits,” it’s all great music, surprisingly experimental, at times oblique, and always perfectly made for the instrument. I’ve never had the opportunity to listen to the whole work in one sitting before, and now realize that this massive collection has a powerful through-line and must be one of the most successful piano cycles lasting longer than an hour.

Tendler and Lin traded off movements and turned pages for each other. Both are virtuosos who sang the lyrical melodies and hammered out the climaxes as required. All and all, an unforgettable evening. The concert repeats tonight and tomorrow.


Common Practice

ECM 2643 is Common Practice, the Ethan Iverson Quartet featuring Tom Harrell, Ben Street and Eric McPherson.

Official Blurb:

The latest ECM album to feature pianist Ethan Iverson – following last year’s duo recording with saxophonist Mark Turner, Temporary Kings, and two lauded discs with the Billy Hart Quartet – presents the Brooklyn-based artist at the head of his own quartet in a program of standards and blues, recorded live at Manhattan’s famed Village Vanguard. Iverson’s quartet for Common Practice features as its prime melodic voice the veteran Tom Harrell, who was voted Trumpeter of the Year in 2018 by the U.S. Jazz Journalists Association. Iverson extols the quality of poetic “vulnerability” in Harrell’s playing, particularly in such ballads as “The Man I Love” and “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” two of the album’s highlights. Common Practice also courses with an effervescent swing, thanks to the top-flight rhythm team of bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson, whose subtle invention helps drive Denzil Best’s bebop groover “Wee” and two irresistibly bluesy Iverson originals.

Produced by Manfred Eicher — Liner notes by Kevin Sun — Recording Engineers: Andreas K. Meyer, Geoff Countryman and Tyler McDiarmid.

Special thanks to Anthony Creamer.

Thanks also to Angela Harrell, Jed Eisenman, and Deborah Gordon. The disc is dedicated with sincere love and respect to the late, indomitable, wonderful, sorely-missed Lorraine Gordon, who caught an early set of this group and approved of the sounds.

Photo of Sun’s liner notes:



Wall Street Journal. (Common Practice – Wall Street Journal.)


Extensive review by Jonathan Wertheim, linking the disc to DTM (he’s not wrong LOL)

NYTimes Playlist:



(Related DTM: Interview with Tom Harrell.)

Two ECM records in two years! I’m very proud of both, not the least because I am the accompaniment for Mark Turner and Tom Harrell, musicians who I wish to emulate more and more.


Harold Mabern R.I.P.

Harold Mabern’s name ended up being slightly incorrect on his birth certificate. It actually was “Harold Will Burn.”

A major legacy. Just a few things that come to mind:

I wish I had seen at least one of the early ’80s nights at the Village Vanguard with George Coleman and Mabern, when these two master Memphis musicians were at their peak of ferocious virtuosity and they were playing to a small group of select NYC initiates…

…Still, three summers ago I saw Mabern play “Just One of Those Things” with Eric Alexander in Chicago as fast as you could count it, and Mabern could still swamp the rhythm section with cascades of perfectly organized sound.

The best Mabern-led record I know is Straight Street, a fantastic trio date from 1989 with Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette that gets the most out of all three players.

One of Mabern’s best compositions is “The Beehive,” immortalized in a smoking rendition with the Lee Morgan Quintet Live at the Lighthouse with Bennie Maupin, Jymie Merritt, and Mickey Roker. (Off on a tangent: There is current amount of handwringing about the participation of African-Americans in “Classical Music,” for example a viral think piece by Joseph Horowitz, “New World Prophecy.” I’m sympathetic to Horowitz’s perspective here (I also admire Horowitz’s criticism in general), but I also wonder why the best American music academics and music students don’t seem to spend more time deciphering what the hell goes into the profound intellectual and virtuosic elements of something like this performance of “The Beehive.” In a way, if Live at the Lighthouse isn’t “classical music,” then nothing is “classical music.”)

The lore goes that Mabern knew every standard and many pop tunes after 1970, including most of Stevie Wonder.

His teaching at William Paterson made a profound impression on several of my peers and friends. The truth will set you free.

I hosted a lively roundtable with Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Barron, and Mabern at the 2018 Jazz Congress. Many people have told me this was an unusually successful panel, and perhaps it was. Mabern was in fine form and played a soulful blues in G at the end. The event starts 25 minutes in.

Trio Tour with Two of the Best

+ tour with Joe Sanders and Jorge Rossy — a recent collective of unrestrained souls

September 11 – Jimmy Glass, Valencia
12 – Jazzhus Montmartre, Copenhagen
13 – Jazz Summer meeting, Lugano
14 – Jazzclub Unterfahrt, Munich
15 – Pizza Express, London
17 – Porgy & Bess, Vienna
18 – Jazz Dock, Prague
19 – Blue Note, Milano
20 & 21 – Duc des Lombards, Paris

Iverson Sanders Rossy 1Iverson Sanders Rossy 3Iverson Sanders Rossy 2

[Photos by Alessandra Freguja]

If you come to a gig, please say hi!

I Like Harmony

I’m having a rather blissful time listening to the CD American Dream, compositions of Scott Wollschleger played by Bearthoven, a bonafide “piano trio” comprised of Karl Larson, piano, Pat Swoboda, double bass, and Matt Evans, percussion. “Gas Station Canon Song” is for quiet solo piano, “We See Things That Are Not There” is for hesitant piano and vibes, and the dramatic centerpiece “American Dream” is for the complete trio. The performers are all great and the production is top-notch. Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti contributed helpful liner notes.

Sometimes I worry just a little bit about the direction of “post-minimal” American “classical” music, especially if there are “indie” or “rock” references. Of course there are good things, like Caroline Shaw’s Partita and John Luther Adams’s Become Ocean, and I wrote about Michael Gordon’s Sonatra for the New Yorker Culture Desk, but just last week I was at a concert where the minimalist works went over big with the audience yet left me cold.

Wollschleger is “process” oriented, the harmonies and melodies repeat and mutate over time, but the raw materials are notably compelling. Possibly Morton Feldman is Wollschleger’s biggest influence. If you like Feldman, get hip to Wollschleger right now

I admit Scott is also a friend, today we walked in the park together.