CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Mark Turner & Ethan Iverson – Temporary Kings

Mark Turner & Ethan Iverson – Temporary Kings
(ECM 673 6988. CD review by Peter Bacon)

There are bands which contain opposites, individual members who bring strikingly contrasting characters to the table and then bounce off one another in boisterous argument. This duo of the Ohio-born saxophonist and the Wisconsin-born pianist does not feel like such a band.

What unites Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson here is a shared measured pace, a sense of intellectual investigation and a penchant for the dry, the ironic and the oblique over the sweet, the enthusiastic and the straightforward. There are no arguments here. There is something much more enthralling: sober but intense discussion – of life’s great mysteries, perhaps?

And varying shades of deadpan – on the surface, anyway. Both musicians are multi-layered, with strongly felt emotions and sharply whirring intellects surging and snapping beneath their cool exteriors, and this makes Temporary Kings’ nine tracks a listen which expands and acquires added depth with each play.

The major composer on the album is Iverson, with two Turners and a Warne Marsh to his six, but in execution it feels perfectly balanced – while the pianist might provide the majority of the notes, both written and played, the sheer presence of the saxophonist is quietly astounding (one of Iverson’s tunes is called Turner’s Chamber Of Unlikely Delights – yes, indeed!).

The Warne Marsh track, Dixie’s Dilemma, arrives with a certain jaunty swagger, and some relief – some great walking bass in Iverson’s left hand and Turner in sublime flow, culminating in impeccable dual lines – after a fairly intense opening trio of Iverson compositions. Lugano, named one assumes for where the recording is being made, and the title track don’t feel like they were recorded in mid-summer. Maybe it’s because I’ve just been reading about a performance of Winterreise in Ed Vulliamy’s excellent book about music in peace and war, When Words Fail (Granta – out now – get it, it’s great!) but Iverson and Turner don’t feel too far from Paul Lewis and Mark Padmore, or from Schubert’s chilly masterpiece.

It doesn’t matter how many times I hear them, the rising opening five chords of Iverson’s solo Yesterday’s Bouquet and then the gentle turn down and around into its melodic hook have me on the verge of tears on every occasion. It feels like there is early 19th-century Romanticism here, and yet over its near five minutes Iverson takes the harmony for a walk right through the intervening near-two centuries of piano-playing (he may be thinking of Bill Evans at one point, of Monk at another).

Unclaimed Freight finds the pair ruminating satisfyingly in the blues, while Turner’s Myron’s World opens with the saxophonist in turning, twisting, effortlessly soaring flight, Iverson creating the occasional updraft for Turner to bounce over, until they join hands in flight, as it were. Third Familiar features the duo’s telepathic shadowed phrasing again, and we reach the album’s denouement in Turner’s Seven Points, which returns the music, despite a breath of spring in the air and subtle lightening of the mood, to near its chilly beginning. Turner’s tone might be burnished now but Iverson’s spikey high notes still feel ice-sparkled.

Cool this music may be but – heavens! – have I warmed to it? Big time!

Ethan Iverson is in residence at Kings Place 16-18 November (part of EFG London Jazz Festival), taking in Henry Purcell, the British Composers and Ethan’s Last Rent Party. He explains his Anglophilia on his Do The M@th blog 

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