Ethan Iverson Trio

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February 2024

Classic piano trios are a dime a dozen in modern jazz. In order to stand out from the crowd of competitors, a trio has to come up with something special. Just like at the beginning of the millennium Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and David King a.k.a. The Bad Plus did. Quite a few described the formation, which played consistently with this line-up for 17 years, as the “perfect jazz trio for the 21st century” (Cincinatti CityBeat, 2016). Why? Because it always honored the musical traditions of jazz, while at the same time welcoming the progressive spirit of the changing times with open arms. The trio not only played original compositions by all band members, but also brought out their hidden potential in sophisticated reworkings of contemporary and classic rock and pop hits. Now pianist Ethan Iverson has recorded his first album for Blue Note with an excellent new trio. As his companions, he gained the drummer JackDeJohnette, who shone in Keith Jarrett's “Standards” trio for over 30 years, and the bassist Larry Grenadier, who has now been an integral part of Brad Mehldau's trio for almost as long. On “Every Note Is True”, as the album is titled, these musicians can bring a concentrated load of top-class trio experiences.

Iverson has always seen himself as a representative of the “tradition of jazz surrealism” (his own words!) and likes to cite Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus as great role models. He was also inspired by other piano and keyboard greats: from Fats Waller, Bud Powell and Lennie Tristano to Keith Jarrett and Joe Zawinul to Django Bates and Jason Moran. On “Every Note Is True” he lets many of these influences shine through. Sometimes clearly and clearly, then more subtly. However, Iverson cites the album “Money Jungle,” which brought together the traditionalist Duke Ellington with the progressive musicians Charles Mingus and Max Roach at an unusual studio session in 1962, as the blueprint for the music of “Every Note Is True.” “It’s great to hear Larry and Jack get down to business,” says Iverson. “When you play with the two of them, you don't need a lot of material. It's enough if you present them with something really simple, nothing more than a few simple sketches. They take ownership of the ideas and make them sound great. This is very much in the tradition of the great Blue Note records from the 50s and 60s, where the melodies are memorable, but not much was actually written down.”

The album opens with “The More It Changes,” a moody choral number that seems like a tongue-in-cheek nod to Iverson’s British colleague and friend Django Bates. “I like to fool around a bit,” the pianist once said. And “The More It Changes” is a prime example of this. After that, musically speaking, things get more serious, but never too serious. With the exception of one piece - Jack DeJohnette's "Blue" from the 1978 ECM classic "Gateway 2" - the repertoire consists exclusively of compositions by Iverson. The pieces usually oscillate between bluesy and ballad-like moods. Some have the flair of imaginative film music. And occasionally there are hints of classical music or even The Bad Plus. Although Ethan Iverson still has the mischief breathing down his neck (and sometimes reaches for the keys), he proves to be a clearly matured composer here. (, February 10, 2022)

Ethan Iverson – The Critic at the Piano

For jazz musicians, self-criticism is somehow part of their own standards. The fact that an outstanding pianist like Ethan Iverson also picks up the critics' tools has to do with his exuberant curiosity. Not only does Iverson want to play, but he also wants to know why he's doing it. And sometimes he didn't stop at himself.

Actually, the roles are clearly divided: one plays, the other writes about it. A situation that is never entirely free of conflict. It is not uncommon for the person being criticized to comfort themselves with the critic's alleged lack of expertise or empathy. He just can't...

“I know this situation all too well,” smiles Ethan Iverson. Everyone identifies the 49-year-old as an outstanding pianist, as a co-founder of the power pop piano trio The Bad Plus or a collaborator with greats such as Lee Konitz, Tootie Heath, Mark Turner, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, Ron Carter, Tom Harrell, Tim Berne and Kurt Rosenwinkel. As composers too, of course. But the side note that Iverson also calls himself a critic is often overlooked.

“I think it's important not only to play music, but also to think and write about it. There is a long tradition of musical critics that begins with the classical pianist Robert Schumann and does not end with Mary Lou Williams. My role model is the pianist and music theorist Charles Rosen. He was less about bashing people and more about analyzing music so that others could benefit from it. I rarely write record reviews and don't comment on my colleagues' playing. What’s most important to me is how music is created.”

That's why Ethan Iverson has been working on his blog Do the Math since 2005, which has won a number of awards and where he publishes interviews and critical analyzes of contemporary jazz, as well as for publications such as The New Yorker and The Nation. This helps him in his teaching work in the jazz program at the New England Conservatory, explains the piano-playing jazz researcher. Of course you have to take on different roles, says the man from Brooklyn. However, he found it difficult to write about himself. Not even exceptionally? At the moment, his current album “Every Note Is True” (Blue Note/Universal) offers an excellent example of (self-)reflection on Iverson’s multiple creative palette. A collection of ten titles, like a journey that practically begins with his departure from The Bad Plus at the end of 2017, looks into the past, celebrates his idol Monk, the blues and bebop, which deals with cinematic motifs and which he focuses on current dream partner: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jack DeJohnette.

“I love the highly virtuosic, old-school drone of Larry’s playing. And Jack is the greatest anyway. In addition to his remarkable jazz career with Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis, Charles Lloyd and countless other legends, he is also one of rock's great drummers."

This perspective is surprising, but Iverson doesn't mean the classic rock storm from the drum set, but rather a very special, modern groove like the legendary "Money Jungle" session with Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. Grenadier and DeJohnette need little guidance, just simple sketches. Similar to the great Blue Note sessions of the 1950s and 1960s, which were primarily about melodies with just a few notes.

Which brings us to the assessment of pianist Ethan Iverson. “Well…” critic Ethan Iverson begins hesitantly.

“I think the guy on the piano is very melodic. Which is an exception in modern jazz because it's usually less about melodies. And he's not a speed demon, not someone who wants to play as many notes as, for example, Oscar Peterson. He doesn't need that. It seems like he knows what jazz harmonies are all about and how to build abstract structures at the same time. This sets him apart from many of his colleagues. Satisfied?"


And Ethan Iverson himself is probably one too. He would give himself “four out of five stars”, but this is mainly due to the opener “The More It Changes” with a 44-voice virtual corona choir.

“I’m a terrible singer,” Iverson admits. “You can hear my warble high up in the mix. But I love this unprofessional singing! An amateur choir or a children’s choir is a wonderful, almost cinematic sound.”

But for the rest, every note is the truth and nothing but the truth. (Reinhard Köchl, Jazzthing 150, 2022)

Program and cast

Ethan Iverson: piano
Thomas Morgan: bass
Kush Abadey: drums

PORGY & BESS Jazzclub

Porgy & Bess (actually, Jazz and Music Club Porgy & Bess ) is a jazz club in the Riemergasse 11 in the 1st district of Vienna. The club , founded in 1993 is considered " the most important jazz organizer and trendy meeting point " of the Austrian capital .

The program of Porgy & Bess speaks to a very large audience , about 70,000 guests a year ; is accordingly Jazz " understood very pluralistic ," and the program " even in fringe areas , such as electronic music , contemporary music and world music penetrated . " Many international artists , particularly from the U.S. space , see also Austrian musician here an opportunity to perform . The club also offers the stage for events, such as the award of the Austrian World Music Award.

Musicologist Christian Scheib According to the Porgy & Bess " at the same time essential for the development of the musical ( jazz ) reality of a City" and needs and uses ' plain commonplace as urban space music. " It creates itself " through artistic preferences, acoustic quality , capacity and real capacity, the necessary exclusion of other clubs. " Here, the different areas of the jazz clubs allow - the area in front of the stage with tables, upstairs gallery , a lateral area with a bar at counter - different intense concentration on the concert scene . For Jazzthetik Porgy & Bess is even a " traditional club . "

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