Whenever Ethan Iverson takes on a repertory project, his goal is to do two things simultaneously. “One side is to play it like the composer would want,” said the Brooklyn-based pianist, a New York transplant from Menomonie, Wisconsin, who turns 48 on Feb. 11. “And then the other side is, you’ve got to make it very fresh and do something new. Both things are true. But you’ve got to choose your places for one or the other.”
I verson faithfully stuck to both self-imposed standards in creating Bud Powell InThe 21st Century , a large-scale work that originated as a series of three commissioned performances for the 2018 Umbria Winter Jazz festival in Italy. Now, a recording culled from those shows is being released as a live album on the Sunnyside label. Iverson’s career has always struck a balance between the presentation of contemporary works and jazz history. Consider his long stint as a founding member of The Bad Plus (from 2000–2017) alongside his frequent ruminations on jazz icons of yesteryear in his blog Do the Math. In recent years, Iverson has immersed himself in the world of large productions and specially commissioned works. In addition to leading the Powell project, he curated Duke University’s 10-day MONK@100 event, put together an overview of the British jazz scene for the London Jazz Festival, wrote a piano concerto for the American Composers Orchestra, and arranged and composed Beatles-related con-
tentfortheMarkMorrisDanceGroupproduction Pepperland . As a longtime member of drummer Billy Hart’s quartet, Iverson played the Village Vanguard’s first livestreamed show in June. He recorded the 2018 duo project Temporary Kings (ECM) with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, and 2019 saw the release of Common Practice (ECM), a live albumwith trumpeter TomHarrell. Lately, Iverson has been posting vid- eos of himself onTwitter playinghis favoriteTVtheme songs. And he continues to teach at New England Conservatory. Bud Powell InThe 21st Century is a landmark not only in Iverson’s discography but also in the legacy of Powell (1924– ’66), a masterful pianist, bebop innovator and DownBeat Hall of Famer who remains underappreciated today. Iverson has stylishly recreated Powell’s notoriously difficult compo- sitions—which were almost always performed and recorded in a trio setting—for a concert-length big band production, using deep cuts Powell recorded with horns during a 1949 quintet session as his starting point.
20 DOWNBEAT MARCH 2021
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