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?

@Stephen: Ooo! So many. He was remarkably consistent, of course one of the greatest.

I probably have mentioned many of my top Higgins on DTM already... but after quickly glancing at his discography of almost 500 records the following are albums I adore that I will keep listening to over and over:

Steve Lacy/Don Cherry EVIDENCE
Herbie Hancock TAKIN' OFF
Sonny Rollins OUR MAN IN JAZZ
Dexter Gordon GO!
Cedar Walton/Hank Mobley BREAKTHROUGH
Clifford Jordan GLASS BEAD GAMES
Cedar Walton PIT INN
Clifford Jordan THE PENTAGON
Billy Higgins BRIDGEWORK (I need to hear the rest of his own albums, usually Cedar is on there, they must be great)
Bobby Hutcherson TRIO AND QUARTET
Ornette Coleman IN ALL LANGUAGES
Don Cherry ART DECO
Stanley Turrentine MORE THAN A MOOD

But there are so many I don't know -- recently I was looking for the Al Haig date with Jamil Nasser, but it's hard to find...

Recently, I saw you (in a couple different contexts), Brad Mehldau, and Bill Charlap in close succession, and I was fascinated by the different approaches you each take to the jazz canon. When I saw you in the BHQ and TBP, the focus was on originals. Brad plays songs from the canon (both obscurities and standards) and material well outside of it, in addition to originals. And Bill draws from a wide selection of material by classic players and songwriters, but I don’t think he plays originals (which is interesting for the son of a songwriter!). I wonder if you have any thoughts on modern players' relation to the jazz canon, what drives some to devote their genius to preserving and interpreting it and others to expand it (not that any one approach is more valid than the others – I love all three of you! - or that one can’t do all of the things I mentioned, as you have). With your originals, and also Brad’s a little, I hear the continuing influence of Paul Motian – a playfulness and a subtle combination of looseness and structure that stays true to classic tunefulness, so I wonder if his work continues to be an example of how to find your own identity within the tradition(s) of jazz songwriting.

By the way, I forgive you for preferring Hammett to my namesake – I understand all your reasons, and you make good points!

@Chandler: Thanks and very cool.

I think almost all jazz pianists have a relationship to standards. When I play with Tootie Heath there are only a few originals.

TBP has three active composers; in the BHQ Billy only wants to do a very occasional standard. If it was up to me I'd probably program a few more!

Brad really has a nice touch with certain types of repertoire. I wrote more about that in the liner notes to the Nonesuch box.

I admire Bill Charlap too of course. One of the times I REALLY loved his harmonic concept was the duo album with his mother.

Of course Paul Motian will perpetually remain an enormous influence.

Hello Ethan
I was very intrigued to learn from PowerOfSoul on SOTW that you had transcribed a Lester Young solo from the Bill Savory collection at the Harlem Jazz Museum. Jan Evansmo of Jazz Archeology recently updated his Herschel Evans page to include the Savorys.

Here is what he says about StarDust.
st taken in by the historical
occasion. Finally however, we have one of the BS collection’s greatest and most
important findings, a full version of “Stardust”, nobody to interfere, except
some soft ensemble backing at the end. This treasure shows what this great
saxophone player could do with a ballad, and there is nothing like this with Basie,
“...Sentimental” included”. He plays so sadly that one is deeply moved, listen to
how he start
s the second chorus, as crying for help. Without trying to be after
it seems that he knew his days were numbered. “Stardust” is a great performance,
one of the greatest treasures of jazz tenor saxophone of the vintage era, and a
worthy goodbye from o
of its greatest performers"

Is there any way you would be allowed or able to transcribe and post or let PowerOfSoul post Herschel's StarDust as we're not likely to ever get to hear it? I could throw in a hundred or so towards expenses. You can hear a bit of him here at number 4
Many thanks

As I write this, I am enjoying Albert Dailey's "Textures"on Muse. I am a big fan of "The Master" with Getz, "Backgammon" with Blakey, "Figure and Spirit" with Konitz and a few others. Do you have any favorites or insight on Dailey's work?

@carl: Wow, that's a real find about Herschel. I know Loren is working on getting the Savory stuff out there; I'm sure everyone will hear it eventually. Amazing collection.

@Michael: You know, I think THE MASTER has my favorite Dailey. The cadenza on "Lover Man" and the improvisation on "Invitation." I dig FIGURE AND SPIRIT too (that's some amazing Konitz with a tougher rhythm section than usual) but don't know the Blakey.

I have his own albums TEXTURES, DAY AFTER THE DAWN, and THAT OLD FEELING but none has made much of an impression (not that they aren't good). There's one more, RENAISSANCE, that I haven't run down yet.

Another good place to hear him is Tom Harrell's PLAY OF LIGHT (with great Billy Hart on there too).

I definitely admire his sound and facility. He took the McCoy thing and made it his own, also his harmonic sense on ballads was really lovely.

At some point I'd love to carve out the time to hear everything and write about it. He was an important figure.

My last thought is his obvious interest in classical music makes him kind of like Roland Hanna. Maybe Hicks, Mabern, and Cables have the "classical" brother Dailey the way Flanagan, H. Jones and Harris have the "classical" brother Hanna.

(Could be wrong about that)

@everyone: OK, I'm shutting this down. Have a relaxing long weekend!

I'm driving Sarah around to visit her family in Philly and Jersey. As usual, I plan to stock the car CD player with Miles Davis.

Thanks for reading DTM

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