“Afterglow” by Marian McPartland

[Third post about the forthcoming Ethan Iverson Residency in London]

Marian McPartland was a pal of my teacher Sophia Rosoff. They were relatively close in age (Marian was born 1918, Sophia 1924) and had known a lot of the same people over the years. Thanks to Sophia, I was featured on Marian’s legendary radio show “Piano Jazz.” Wow, was Marian a pro! Just a wonderful radio personality. At the studio she made me feel really comfortable and even learned one of my tunes. In high school I had listened to “Piano Jazz” whenever I could — I particularly remember the Eubie Blake episode — and it was a bit surreal to be in that situation as a participant.

(Sophia would always tell her students about Marian’s daily question to everybody in her peer group, including Sophia: “Are you getting laid?” Sophia would then respond, “Marian, you are so very English.” Marian was around 90 and Sophia 84 at that time.)

The best McPartland album I know is a lovely recital of Alec Wilder themes. There’s a new interest in Don Shirley due to the movie Green Book, and in a way one can see Shirley and McPartland as part of a midcentury continuum of lush piano that intersects with jazz and song. Wilder and Cy Walter would be one end of the spectrum, Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal on the other, George Shearing and André Previn dead in the middle. If you dared you could put Ramsey Lewis and Roger Williams in there. Certainly both Liberace and Nat King Cole have a place.

I wanted to include a McPartland selection for the night of jazz composers partly because a solo ballad would give the full quintet a break. After listening to all the McPartland ballads I could find (Thad and Mel played “Ambience,” which might be the best known to McPartland piece to jazz buffs) I settled on “Afterglow,” which has a splendid live recording on YouTube.


I left this until the last minute to work out, and finally transcribed it last night. My rhythmic notation involves a lot of guesswork. It’s also just for me, so I cut a few corners that I wouldn’t if I was handing the chart around for rehearsal with a band.


Fooling around with it just now I felt it was too high in range for my usual ballad approach. At first I was transposing to lower keys but then I realized I could just drop the octave for the first half.  A voice memo recording from ten minutes ago shows potential.


I still have a couple of days to sleep on it, and then in concert, who knows, perhaps lightning will strike. One of the great things about jazz is how at the last moment, one can decide to do something completely different….

“And On the Third Day” by Michael Gibbs

[Second post about the forthcoming Ethan Iverson Residency in London]

Many jazz musicians roughly in my generation and a bit older used the Real Book when we were too young to know better.

The book was created by two students who were in the Berklee jazz program in Boston. Gary Burton was head of that department and the Real Book had a lot of lead sheets by musicians supported by Burton: Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Pat Metheny, Eberhard Weber, Bob Moses, and so forth, most of whom could be found on ECM records. The most mysterious name might have been trombonist and composer Michael Gibbs. Burton recorded several Gibbs pieces and (I think) suggested “Sweet Rain” to Stan Getz.

Early on in the Real Book was a chart to “And On the Third Day.”

gibbs real book


I read through this chart as a kid and it made no impression. However various people have kept mentioning Gibbs’s name to me over the years, so he’s stayed in the “to be investigated further” pile of my subconscious.

When I began assembling a playlist of British composers for my London residency I finally started checking Gibbs out. The 1970 debut album Michael Gibbs on Deram proved to be a thrilling listen, especially the last track, “And On the Third Day.”

“Day” is the precise intersection of British Invasion rock (Jack Bruce is on bass!) and the Ellington/Mingus big band tradition. Amusingly, the overall vibe strongly reminds me of the brilliant compositions of Reid Anderson (although I can guarantee that Reid never checked out Gibbs).

At one point I thought the Real Book charts of the Burton circle were much better than those of the jazz masters. To my surprise, the Real Book chart of “And On the Third Day” is just as bad as selections by Monk or Miles. I had to completely re-transcribe it:

And On the Third Day iverson

The take has hot trombone from Chris Pyne, incandescent baritone from John Surman, and a delightfully period beat from John Marshall. (Surman will also be represented in my quintet playlist at Kings Place.) Truly, I think this shambling anthem is one of the greatest things ever recorded.

RIP Sonny Fortune

In the early 2000s, I saw Sonny Fortune and Rashied Ali play duo at Sweet Rhythm. The set was “Cherokee” for an hour. After Ali set up the “Indian tom tom” intro, Fortune played for forty minutes, Ali soloed for about ten, and then Fortune played another ten. No bass; no piano: Duo.

Ali was no Max Roach when it came to uptempo bebop, but he hung in there. His stamina was one reason Coltrane hired him all those years ago. Fortune played a mixture of Bird and Trane spiced with his personal kind of incandescent lyricism.

They were already old men but they were there to prove something about intensity, black music, and the lineage. Cecil Taylor was in the corner, grinning. It was a real New York night of real New York jazz.

Time Tunnel

New at the New Yorker Culture Desk:  The Music of “Doctor Who” Makes a Glorious Return to Form.

My brain is far too full of Doctor Who trivia, musical and otherwise. A few things I left out of the essay:

Dudley Simpson died last November at 95, a passing I wasn’t aware of until this week. I once spoke to Simpson briefly on the phone. At that time I was doing a few interviews for the BBC, and thought it would be great to give Simpson some space. While in Sidney for a few days I called all the “D. Simpsons” in the Australian phone directory and reached the legendary composer. The BBC passed on the interview and Simpson was already in frail health and wasn’t up for a visit. However, at least I got to tell Simpson how much his music meant to me. He’s certainly a direct influence. One time in the late 90s I played the VHS of “Pyramid of Mars” for Reid Anderson and Jorge Rossy. They both started laughing at how much the music on the TV serial sounded like some of my compositions for Construction Zone.

Many of the 60s Doctor Who stories are lost. Recently “The Enemy of the World” was rediscovered and released. I loved the novelization as a child so couldn’t resist sitting through all six slow-moving episodes. There’s not much music, what’s there is “stock” and by Béla Bartók. I suspect in the end 20th century genre TV and movie composers imitated Bartók more than anybody else; he’s certainly a big influence on Simpson.

For “Rosa,” Segun Akinola uses some horns borrowed from the Aaron Copland tradition. It’s quite delicate but also suggests the whole span of American experience, which helps the episode from becoming too preachy.

About Murray Gold: Hiring a symphony is obviously a classy move, but the sampling, compression, and click track used in the studio to create a “flawless” product removes the natural grain of a real orchestra playing with a human beat. When auditing this kind of modern product (which is heard everywhere these days, from Hollywood on down), it is hard to tell the difference between real instruments and a good sample library. I want the players to have a gig, of course, but what’s the point of having a real band if they aren’t going to be at least a little out of tune once in a while?

“Ethan Iverson in London”

[As part of the EFG London Jazz Fest in November, I am curating a three-night overview of English jazz.]

I’m a lifelong Anglophile. When I was a little boy I loved Doctor Who, and won a contest for dressing up as Jon Pertwee at major science fiction convention in Chicago. (Many years later, when meeting Courtney Pine professionally, I surprised Pine by citing his performance in the Doctor Who episode “Silver Nemesis.”) The title of my recent ECM album with Mark Turner, Temporary Kings, comes in part from a favorite author, Anthony Powell, and his masterful cycle A Dance to the Music of Time.

I’ve also always loved English jazz, it’s one of the strongest non-American jazz traditions. It is high time a New Yorker paid tribute to London instead of it always being the other way around! Each night will flow naturally and be a lot of fun.

Concert One
Friday November 16 Kings Place Hall 2
Raising Hell with Henry Purcell

I first got to know Henry Purcell’s music when I was rehearsal pianist for Dido and Aeneas with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Purcell remains eternally fresh and surprising. In some ways he is a real avant-garde composer, with odd phrase lengths and strange resolutions. He was also a quintessential author of fanfares: Bright, clear melodies that raise the curtain for more complex emotions.

The current experimental jazz scene in London is very strong, and it will be a real pleasure to present some Purcell fanfares to unruly young masters and see what happens. I will be “directing” the affair from a harpsichord but I guess Brigitte Beraha, Mandhira de Saram, Cath Roberts, Dee Byrne, Kim Macari, and Olie Brice will be free to rebel against the concert master if they must…

Concert Two
Saturday November 17 Kings Place Hall 1
Ethan and the British composers

It’s comparatively unusual for non-Americans to make an impact on the serious NYC jazz scene, but there’s not a Manhattan bebopper who doesn’t play George Shearing’s “Conception” or Victor Feldman’s “Seven Steps to Heaven.” The innovations of Kenny Wheeler, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, and Evan Parker have been absorbed into the language. Marian McPartland was a close friend of my teacher Sophia Rosoff, and as a result I was one of the hundreds of musicians to appear on Marian’s delightful radio show, “Piano Jazz.”

I’ve always been interested in all sorts of other wonderful English players, from Tubby Hayes to Joe Harriott to John Surman to Django Bates. One time when I was working in London I ventured on the tube to a distant pub to see Stan Tracey. More recently I have been gigging with Martin Speake.

At Kings Place I have a terrific quintet: Laura Jurd, Peter Wareham, Tom Herbert, Sebastian Rochford. We’ve been talking over the set list, but it will certainly include a chorale from Surman, a rock anthem from Michael Gibbs, a waltz from Gordon Beck, a blues from Nikki Iles, and other pieces that deserve “repertory status.”

Sunday November 18 Kings Place Hall 2
Ethan’s Last Rent Party

One of the first people who wrote something sensible about Duke Ellington was the English composer, critic, and ballet conductor Constant Lambert. As result the two became firm friends. The Lambert-Ellington connection is just one of many fascinating links between the English and American communities in the early days of jazz. I’m going to play the first movement of Lambert’s remarkable jazz-influenced Piano Sonata from 1929. (It’s better than comparable jazz-influenced piano pieces by Aaron Copland or Darius Milhaud.) An obvious pairing is Percy Grainger’s “In Dahomey,” a striking concert rag “dished up” after seeing a performance of Will Marion Cook’s revue of the same name on Shaftesbury Avenue. (Cook was Ellington’s teacher.)

Much of early ragtime, jazz, and other syncopated strains revolve around the piano. For this “Rent Party” I am joined by two brilliant UK keyboard stylists, Adam Fairhall and Alexander Hawkins. The original idea of this series was partially inspired by the Beaver Harris slogan, “From Ragtime to No-Time.” With Fairhall and Hawkins present, all the bases will be covered: When I last checked, William Byrd, Billy Mayerl, and Ray Noble were on the program. At a Rent Party in New York, we all play James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout.” In London I thought it would be amusing if we all had to play Grainger’s “Country Gardens.” Buckle up!

[tix here]

Eduard Erdmann plays Ernst Krenek “Little Suite Op. 13A”

For some time I’ve been impressed by a rarity on YouTube, Eduard Erdmann playing Ernst Krenek’s Kleine Suite Op. 13A in 1928.

The score is very hard to find. I finally ran down a copy: Reading through it is fun, but the pages also prove that Erdmann’s wonderful handling of the keyboard is a major part of the recording’s charisma.


The tiny movements are: Allemande – Sarabande – Gavotte – Waltz – Fugue – Fox Trot.

Erdmann plays the repeats as written.

First two pages of score:

krenek 1

krenek 2.jpg

Wikipedia: Eduard Erdmann, Ernst Krenek.