Cornelia Street Café
Contemporary Classical Series
The telepathic rapport of tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel was recently the subject of a big story in Downbeat magazine. But in this installment of Cornelia Street Café’s Contemporary Classical Series, Turner’s equally incredible bond with pianist Ethan Iverson was on display. Although this duo concert was not classical in the strict sense, it did showcase the classically informed approach to writing and improvisation of these two remarkable players. And that’s what the series is about: the commonalities between contemporary jazz and contemporary classical music, and how these genres have become increasingly intertwined in the work of a growing number of jazz-identified musicians, many of whom play at Cornelia Street Café on a regular basis.
Iverson and Turner evinced a refreshing lack of respect for musical boundaries during their two sets. Filling the "classical" side of the bill, they played several new, as-yet-untitled works by Iverson, along with two of Turner’s most fascinating pieces, "Bo Brussels" and "Zurich." The former didn’t sound classical at all when it appeared on Turner’s 1998 album In This World (Warner Bros.), but in this duo context, categorization became thoroughly up for grabs. As for "Zurich," two metronomes were employed in sort of John Cagean fashion; one was set at 40 and the other at 42 beats per minute while Iverson and Turner played along, the machines clicking hypnotically in and out of phase.
The duo declared its allegiance to jazz standards, partly by intention, partly because they began to run out of original material, as Iverson confessed. They played tunes based on "There Will Never Be Another You" and "Cherokee"; they offered a haunting version of "Stella By Starlight"; they even encored with "Body and Soul." Turner played Wayne Shorter’s "Fall" as an unaccompanied solo. And Iverson’s "Guilty," a slow 12-bar blues, heightened the jazz/classical encounter like no other piece of the night. This was the blues, but this was also music that has yet to be given a name.