Live reviews

Ethan Iverson Trio at Vortex Jazz Club

Ethan Iverson Trio – with Conor Chaplin and Andreu Pitarch

(Vortex. 5 August 2022. Live review by Jon Turney)

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L-R: Andreu Pitarch, Ethan Iverson, Conor Chaplin. Composite image from publicity photos

A rare opportunity to hear the polymathic pianist in a small club – one with a Steinway on hand – was too good to miss on a Friday night. Ethan Iverson’s schedule brought him to the UK a week or so ago to open the St Endellion Festival in North Cornwall. So this trio gig in London rounded off, I assume, a relaxed visit.

He’s been performing material from his striking Blue Note CD Every Note is True in the US with the red-hot pairing of Larry Grenadier on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums (instead of Jack DeJohnette on the recording). For this evening of two shows at the Vortex Conor Chaplin came in on bass, and the young, Barcelona-resident drummer Andreu Pitarch was a last-minute dep for Martin France on drums.

In the second set we heard a couple of tunes from the CD. The deliberately showy theme from an as-yet unwritten TV show, She Won’t Forget Me, brought enough piano fireworks from the leader to sustain an entire season of drama. And the trio really nailed the ending, so had clearly found time for some rehearsal.

Indeed, they sounded entirely at home with Iverson’s always well-wrought music, from the opener Technically Acceptable, with its lightly Ellingtonian stomp. Conor Chaplin’s bass walk was immediately solid enough to support any amount of weight. Pitarch’s mainly straightahead drumming meshed well, and Iverson built a characteristically thoughtful solo. A third original, with another teasingly ambiguous title, That Was Interesting, preceded a richly rendered Round Midnight, which cued the most Monkish Iverson theme, Goodness Knows, (though the composer referenced Jason Moran).

Then a hell-for-leather Giant Steps, a new Iverson composition Who Are You really? with hymnal chords that I swear managed to sound interrogative, and an unrehearsed selection to end – James P. Johnson’s Charleston: a stirring reminder that Iverson’s enthusiasm for the entire jazz piano tradition reaches back 100 years.

A solo piano encore, Killing Me Softly with His Song, rounded things off impeccably. A delightful set to hear up close and personal, affirming that Iverson’s work locates a sweet spot where deep study informs playing that still carries emotional weight but is also, like his composing, full of wit.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol.   Twitter @jonwturney

LINKS: Buy Every Note is True

Live review/ photos of Martin Speake Quartet with Ethan Iverson from 2020

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