Forumesque 15

This Sunday, June 29, Sam Newsome and I play duo at the Greenwich House Music School as part of the Sound it Out series.

Sincere thanks to everybody who came out for the Billy Hart Quartet this past month. Great gigs!

Now the Tootie Heath-Ethan Iverson-Ben Street (Tootie's Tempo) trio does a little tour in July:

9 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)

10 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)

11 Blue Whale (LA)

12 Blue Whale (LA)

13 Outpost Performance Space (Albuquerque)


Tomorrow, an all-star tribute to Stephanie Stone (DTM guest post: "Stones" by Kevin Whitehead) is at Roulette.

Speaking of guest posts: if you enjoyed Dan Schmidt's ranking of Bond songs, his wife ranked the movies themselves.

And speaking of blogs: Thanks to the Jazz Journalists Association for choosing DTM as blog of the year recently. Naturally, I immediately informed Sarah that she must address me as "lord blogger" (accompanied by a special curtsy) at least once each morning, noon, and night. 

In all seriousness, it's a nice honor, although it also seems like jazz blogs (and maybe personal blogs in general?) are in a bit of a slump these days. I've just ruthlessly updated the links page and trimmed away a good deal of dead wood. Many of those left post only infrequently... 

Probably bloggers lose heart if they feel like they work in a vacuum. One thing that could help is what A Blog Supreme used to do, a weekly round-up of interesting links. 


While working on the update I was pleased to see some recent interesting activity by some who have been on the blogroll for a long time.

Ronan Guilfoyle interviews Keith Copeland (part two, part one)

Matt Smiley transcribes a whole album of Charlie Haden 

Nicholas Payton returns with more about BAM and jazz

Excellent Ted Panken article on Geri Allen

Peter Magarsak has links and commentary about the late Lee Hyla (a very important composer for many members of the Brooklyn jazz scene including Tim Berne, Josh Sinton, and Darcy James Argue)

Sam Newsome remembers Gilles Laheurte 

Peter Hum listens to me at the Ottawa jam session (honestly, I started "Move" a bit fast that night)

And, new to the blogroll:

Dfan Says (the Bond song enthusiast, but also look at the Threadgill)

John Schott (old buddy and influence, this post made me laugh)

Steve Wallace (digs James P.)

Übergreifen (I know Dan Voss from Twitter; his blog uses Schenkerian analysis for jazz. Kind of unbelievable, try the voiceleading on Trane's "Transition"

Atlas Cops and Kids is Sarah's blog about her gym. Amazing writing by her kids (one, two)

(Another side of my wife's diverse activities is told in her memoir about writing erotica, "Game Face.")


Presumably everyone has already read "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Narrative Bibliography is also fascinating. Coates sparred wonderfully with Stephen Colbert and his constant Twitter feed is amusing as well as enlightening. Mr. Coates is clearly the man of the hour.


Forumesque 15 is an opportunity to weigh in on recent posts and anything else in the contents. Factual corrections are welcomed; general questions are fine too. I will close the comments in about a week.

A guest post by Jeff Sultanof is up next on DTM, after which I will take a summer break.


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I want to know everything about the way TBP opened Rite of Spring in Ottawa. (Not sure this conversation is possible without spoilers.) How long have you done it that way? And, of course, why? I have a theory.

@Paul: Nice to meet...

It's the same version of the first movement we've done all along. There was a movie for ON SACRED GROUND, MMDG uses it, and it is on our recording.

It's very thick, by far the thickest of the movements. In the four hands version Stravinsky himself has ossia that can't be played by human hands; among others, Ashkenazy and Gavrilov overdub to get it all in.

I played everything in strict fashion in multiple takes for Reid to use while constructing the prelude.

I was surprised to read your take on jazz activism. Isn't all black jazz essentially activist? Vijay Iyer is right.

@John Brown: Nice name! (not your own, I presume)

You are referring to this piece:

Which lays out my perspective pretty clearly. I mean, what do I know? But I don't think Cedar Walton was activist, no. And the fact that a major paper treats Fred Ho (who was very activist) as seemingly much greater that Cedar bothered me.

There are lots of great black jazz artists that I have trouble really seeing as activist. Count Basie was a political figure?

I remember in BLACK MUSIC Baraka seems to dismiss Wayne Shorter and others for not taking a more radical stance musically. This is where Baraka loses me: the rules of music are their own thing, not a social statement. Playing great in Art Blakey's band is not a weak position...

However, let me say again, I appreciate Vijay using his platform to speak truth to power, that's great. But I guess I don't see the history of the music in exactly the same way as he does. And that's totally cool. (At least I think so.)

Many thanks for checking out my blog and sharing it with your readers!

@Dan: I took a course in Schenker analysis in college. Very helpful. As far as I know, you are first to apply some of those principles to Coltrane!

Which do you consider more realistic, Laverne and Shirley or That '70s Show? Who is your favorite character on each?

@godoggo: Ya got me, as I don't know either show. (I might have seen L & S a couple times as a kid, that's it)


Sorry about that. I was just stunned. I mean, come on, it's heritage! "Hello, Wisconsin!"

Several music theorists, including pathbreakers like Steve Larson and Henry Martin, have done important work applying Schenker's principles to jazz analysis, with a special emphasis on American songbook composers, Bird, Bill Evans, and a small handful of others. But I agree that this kind of approach---and, unfortunately, serious analysis of any type---is insufficiently attempted, especially with regard to a towering figure like Trane and many other canonical improvisers.
Thanks again.

@Dan: I know Martin a bit but Larson is a new name to me.

Actually, John Schott, mentioned above, has a good technical article on Coltrane published in one of the Zorn books.

Thank you for your continued work here. I consistently find it very valuable. (As a pianist, I have also long enjoyed your superlative playing.) I have a query that doesn't relate to this any one specific post, but something you've come back to more than once.

To be specific, you've occasionally written about the "band concept" - fostering a group identity and approach in jazz - in discussing your group and others (eg. in your post about E.S.T.). I am writing a project for a doctorate that relates to the phenomenon of jazz groups maintaining personnel and a more distinctive approach for long periods (as opposed to freelance or pickup band approach). Toronto, the scene I am primarily studying, has (arguably) seen a significant shift from more venues programming groups that play in what I'll call this freelance "common practice" manner (which overall usually paid better, it should be said) to venues that program younger musicians having long-term projects with a more distinctive approach to jazz tradition(s). Often the very approach of these groups is contingent on those long-term relationships in a way that "common practice" is not. I have heard from some musicians they have been inspired, in part, by recent larger trends in the jazz community.

Certainly, I think the notion of long-term, distinctive, stable small group projects hasn't been new since in jazz at least the 1950s (maybe earlier) when such groups formed in order to develop distinct group approaches to the bebop language (Mulligan-Baker, Brubeck, Jazz Messengers, Silver's groups, etc). Nonetheless, do you think that this phenomenon has been more pronounced in the last 15-20 years by your peers in the most prominent acoustic instrumental jazz music (and even the older veteran leaders) of recent years? (I think of Shorter, Holland, Mehldau, Iyer, Glasper, not to mention - of course -TBP, among many others that litter the top of the annual polls in the trade magazines.) If so, what would you attest this to? If not, why not? Do you have any other thoughts about this?

Sorry about the length of this post, but I wanted to contextualize as best I could. Again, thanks for all of your contributions, Ethan.

Ian Sinclair
DMA Candidate, University of Toronto

@Ian: Thanks!

Stable ensembles aren't new to jazz; indeed they are the backbone of the music. In that sense I don't agree that group music is more pronounced in recent years. I think you could pick up any DownBeat from any year and see the poll leaders had steady groups.

However, the leaderless idea that TBP promotes is relatively non-traditional turf. That said, I think that most of the greatest leaders allowed their great sidemen to play whatever they wanted.

"Common practice" vs. "new concepts" is an interesting discussion, and I think that's really the issue you are looking at. Indeed, I think that's the issue everyone is looking at!

Getting back to bands: One reason I think it is the way of the future is simple economics: with no money anywhere, it only makes sense to treat a beginning jazz group as an art project that needs to rough it just as much as a beginning rock group. If an audience gets built, then everyone can share equally in the win

ethan, this piece made me think of you:

it's the second "etude du jazz" (appropriately entitled "blues pour paul whiteman") by erwin schulhoff.

not sure why exactly you sprang to mind the first time i heard it, but this guy certainly knows how to create tension/release and voice lead like a maniac while keeping the blues form and referencing stride piano (it's 1927) and maj7#9 chords...

love your blog, keep up the wonderful work!

@Oliver: You are right to think of me at least in the sense that I've owned the score for 15 or 20 years -

Never played 'em, though. Listening to Tocco's fine but conventional performance reminds me of an idea I have occasionally, to record jazz age-influenced classical composers from the vantage point of an actual jazz pianist. (Hindemith SUITE 1922, Copland PIANO BLUES, Stravinsky and Milhaud rags, Schulhoff, many other possibles). If I ever acquire enough chops, maybe I'll do that someday.


Long-time reader and fan of yours...Love the blog and your music!

In a past post you made about Tootie Heath, you made the following comment:

"What goes around comes around? I hardly ever work with a younger musician, but Ben Street is suddenly raptured away to Japan with Aaron Parks and Billy Hart. To complete the Tootie's Tempo run, Martin Nevin is stepping in. Martin has a big sound, great time, a genuine melodic sense, and loves all the right cats: Wilbur, Jimmy, Ron, Charlie, Street. Tootie and I are looking forward to playing with him."

I was surprised to hear you say "I hardly ever work with younger musicians." The way in which you write about Nevin sounds like you were a bit skeptical, and were very surprised by his talents.

Is there a reason you don't ever work with younger musicians? I'm sure there are tons of younger guys who are huge fans of yours who would love to play a bill with you, or share a studio session with you.

Also, I'd like to mention I saw the Billy Hart Quartet play a couple weeks ago at Constellation in Chicago...You guys sounded amazing!

@Bill: Thanks for nice comments

If I had time to play with more younger folks, I would, but I'm rather overextended as is. I show up in NYC with 4 or 5 projects a year, that's already almost too much. (Tonight: with Sam Newsome, for example)

And, yes, Martin was surprising, he's really got it going on. I told him directly he was much more advanced than me when I was his age.

Thanks again.

Hi Ethan-

Long time huge TBP fan and DTM reader here. I'm aching for more info about Inevitable Western's upcoming release. I heard a lot of the new material at the BRIC House show last year in Brooklyn, and really loved all of it. What is your sense of how this record differs from past ones, or what the vibe is in general? Made Possible was such a cohesive statement to me, I can't wait to hear what you all have next in the way of original music.

Thanks for everything.

@Nick: Hey, thanks. I remember that BRIC House gig as being really fun.

I agree that MADE POSSIBLE is really cohesive. Not sure if INEVITABLE WESTERN has that kind of unified narrative. It's more like a collection of new tunes that are all really strong. Honestly it's really some of our best writing. But there's no MP-style through line (AFAIK);

Hope you dig it and thanks again.

Hi Ethan -

I know this is a Mark Turner tune, and furthermore I have a hunch you're going to want to leave this tune's mystery intact, but is there any way you could elaborate a little on the form of the song "Nigeria," from the second Billy Hart record? Love this tune, but repeated listenings still leave me confused as to it's form and it's relation to "Airegin."

On an unrelated note, I'm surprised Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra didn't make it into the jazz and activism discussion. I don't know where exactly LMO fits into the mix in this discussion, but I do appreciate Charlie Haden's radical anti-colonial stance. I bought a LMO record in high school while I was listening to a lot of anarchist punk and hardcore music and LMO somehow fit right in there for me. I agree with your thesis, but LMO certainly presents an interesting part of this puzzle. Thanks for the music and writing!

Hello Ethan--I wonder if you would be interested in seeing the new edition of my book The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field. I did a talk on it at the New School back in May ... so this is not so much a comment but, from checking out DTM, the only way I could see to contact you. Thanks!
David Lee

Hello sir,

Just wanted to say that the Billy Hart Quartet show I caught (early show Friday @ the Vanguard) was one of my favorites of the year. One particular highlight was your solo at the end of Some Enchanted Evening, which was DOPE.

On a completely unrelated note, also just want to say that I would kill to see Gary Peacock get the Ethan Iverson interview treatment.

@Walt: "Nigeria" uses the changes of "Airegin" exactly - if the relationship is obscure it is probably just because the way Mark and Ben play is so advanced.

LOVE the LMO of course. I've written before about how BALLAD OF THE FALLEN is one of my favorite albums. Paul Motian told me it was a favorite of his, too.

I certainly could have included Charlie when making the list of activist jazz musicians, but I guess I was really just thinking of the Afro-American players.

@David Lee: I'll send you an email. Thanks for your work with Paul Bley, STOPPING TIME is a wonderful read.

@Enrique: Thanks mucho.

I've thought about Gary of course. I've heard he is quite interesting in conversation as well.

What's your favourite Billy Higgins record?

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