Jazz Composers Collective Concert Series
New York, NY
The ninth annual Jazz Composers Collective Concert Series drew to a close with a typically diverse double bill. Ted Nash’s Odeon, which just released its Arabesque debut, Sidewalk Meeting, started off the evening with its unorthodox melange of New Orleans jazz and European classical and folk forms. Nash, on multiple reeds, has composed a riveting book of music for the group, which also includes Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and sousaphone, Miri Ben-Ari on violin, Bill Schimmel on accordion, and Matt Wilson on drums. With each member harnessing his or her virtuosity in the service of Nash’s orchestrational concept, Odeon went over big with the grooving "Jump Line," the lush "Tango Sierra," the haunting clarinet/accordion duo "Reverie," and an iconoclastic rendition of Debussy’s "Premier Rhapsodie." Wycliffe Gordon stole the show with his unaccompanied, gospel-tinged trombone intro to "Summertime in the Deep South," a piece that also featured a superb, swaggering solo by Miri Ben-Ari, whose amplified violin otherwise could have come down a touch in volume. Wrapping up with the two-part "Sidewalk Meeting," Odeon left this crowd plenty wound-up and exhilarated.
Pianist Ethan Iverson then took the stage, with the trio featured on last year’s The Minor Passions (Fresh Sound/New Talent) — Reid Anderson on bass, Billy Hart on drums. An Iverson concert is truly an experience. This is a masterful, rigorous, inventive pianist and an energized leader, given to controlled bursts of on-stage intellectual mayhem that can at times leave an audience stupefied. Introducing the one standard of the set, "Beautiful Love," Iverson says that since he thinks of all these pieces not as his but as the trio’s, so can he offer a standard and still have it be an original composition. The audience greets this with nervous giggles and in some cases, outright laughter. Looking mock-wounded, Iverson adds, "That’s not some kind of Socratic logic, that’s really the way I feel about it." Then, still standing, he proceeds to warble his way vocally through the first verse before sitting down to rip the tune into fragments all over the keyboard. The trio stops playing approximately three minutes later and the audience doesn’t know what to do. Iverson finally turns around as if to ask, "Well, what’s the matter?" This is fairly typical of how Iverson challenges his listeners without alienating them.
Moving through the dissonant "Other Roses," the sublime rubato meditation "Lullaby," and two trio adaptations from his recent suite of solo piano etudes ("Brush" and "Bounce"), Iverson and his colleagues stunned with their rhythmic and textural freshness. Then tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, Iverson’s friend and frequent collaborator, joined for the last two selections. (Turner had Iverson sit in the last two nights of his engagement at the Village Vanguard, which ran throughout the previous week. Here Iverson was returning the favor.) Now a quartet, the group rendered "Myron’s World," a Turner composition that appears on the saxophonist’s new release, Dharma Days (Warner Bros.). (Incidentally, Turner titled the album’s opening track "Iverson’s Odyssey.") The four then finished with an off-kilter blues titled "Guilty."
Both Ted Nash and Ethan Iverson, in their own, twisted ways, are helping to advance jazz music tremendously. Those inclined to moan about a lack of innovation in American jazz owe it to themselves, and the rest of us, to check out these and other brilliant artists being showcased by the Jazz Composers Collective.