Ethan Iverson

Do the Math is written by Ethan Iverson, best known as one third of The Bad Plus

Timeline:  Born February 11, 1973 in Menomonie, Wisconsin - moved to New York City in 1991 and played dance classes, comedy sports, theatre pits, and in the New York Tango Trio with Raul Jaurena and Pablo Aslan - studied with Fred Hersch, then Sophia Rosoff -- became music director of Mark Morris Dance Group in 1998 - was part of late-'90s indie jazz scene along with Bill McHenry, Jeff Williams, Reid Anderson and others, mainly documented on Fresh Sound New Talent, thanks to Jorge Rossy -- worked as a sideman with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner in 2000/2001.

The Bad Plus with Anderson and Dave King formed in 2001, the Billy Hart Quartet with Turner and Ben Street formed in 2003, Do the Math debuted in 2005. In recent years Iverson has collaborated with Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Hank Roberts, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Larry Grenadier, Jorge Rossy, Lee Konitz, Ron Carter, Tom Harrell, Ron Miles, Chris Cheek, Seamus Blake and Sam Newsome.


Iverson's 30-minute solo piano score for Dance Heginbotham, "Easy Win" (2015), is through-composed, as is the short string quartet for Brooklyn Rider, "Morris Dance" (2011).

His current piano teacher is John Bloomfield of the Dorothy Taubman tradition.


Iverson resides in Park Slope with wife Sarah Deming.  After jazz and classical music, his main interests classic crime fiction: he's read all of Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler multiple times, and has written about Donald E. Westlake, Charles Willeford, Ross Thomas and Eric Ambler on DTM. There are occasional bouts of cult TV, especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Columbo, childhood obsession Doctor Who, and The Wire; favored movies are frequently metatextual or post-modern in nature, for example The Muppet Movie, The Long Goodbye, and Cabin in the Woods. 


2012 interview at The 99 Percent by Todd Anderson.

2010 interview for JazzTimes by Lee Mergner.

2010 essay for the Guardian about jazz blogging.

2001 NY Times profile by Ben Ratliff.

"Crate Diving" with Willard Jenkins.

With Alex Ross at Gilmore, by Mark Wedel.

2000 NY Times profile of Mark Morris (with Iverson cameo) by Terry Teachout.


(photo by Cristina Guadalupe)


A work in progress! Just for fun, here are twenty five recorded piano performances that are the best I could do at the time. In chronological order, beginning in 1998:

"Imagination is Important" (Dirty Show Tunes) I'm rushing like crazy, but still it's a vibe.  My peers were impressed, I remember that.

"Lullaby" (The Minor Passions) Lots of incredible Billy Hart on this record.  I can't listen to it anymore, but this track felt pretty special at the time. 

"In Love In Vain" (Live At Smalls)  This isn't good piano playing, exactly, but it sure doesn't sound like anybody else. Bill and I should have kept this genre going.

"'Round Midnight" (Guilty)  As far as I know, this was the first recording of this song with the correct changes since Monk's. Apparently some still consider this to be my best jazz performance on record, although for me the more recent music with Tootie Heath is at a much higher level.

"Boo-Wah" (These Are the Vistas) TBP linked up and consecrated several dimensions of what I was trying to accomplish. One of those dimensions was composition: there were better live versions of my best tune of the era, but the studio version of "Boo-Wah" with stellar Tchad Blake production definitely gets the point across. The whole album still sounds fresh to me. I will forever remain indebted to Reid and Dave.

"Iron Man" and "Layin' a Strip for the Higher-Self State Line" (Give)  Give me credit for serious outlandishness.  The boogie on Dave's tune is pretty solid piano playing: Indeed, I don't think I ever played it as good live. (Ditto for his later jump tune "1980 World Champion" on Prog.)

"Silence is the Question" and "Heart of Glass" (Blunt Object) TBP live at this time tried to break pianos.

"Prehensile Dream" and "Lost of Love" (Suspicious Activity) Two of Reid's greatest songs came out perfectly on this album. I seem to be in the right space here, and haven't always found my way back.

"Good Bait" (Live at Smalls) Tootie is awesome. I play not on top of him but underneath him, and it works out. 

"It's Easy To Remember" (bootlegged at the end of "The Paradox of Continuity") I had planned to make a record with Motian but didn't get there in time. Guillaume Hazebrouck transcribed both hands: It's interesting to see some of what I do looks like.

ÔÇťOhnedaruth" and "Nostalgia For the Impossible" (All Our Reasons) A thrill to work with an A-class piano and Manfred Eicher. Comparing "Nostalgia" with "Lullaby" shows how much I've grown.

"In Stitches" (Made Possible) Our most minimalism-influenced album. The moments when the harmony leaves the key are really nice.

"The Charleston" (Tootie's Tempo) I'm interested in going backwards as well as forwards. It still sounds like me when I play those old tunes, though. The records with Tootie showcase the brilliance of Ben Street.

"Amethyst" (One Is the Other) I wish some of the spaces Billy Hart and I have gotten to live were documented. However the duo on this track really is pretty cool.

My performance on The Rite of Spring is not perfect; no one knows this more than me. (Reid and Dave do play rather perfectly, dammit.) However, the job of integrating modernist classical music into jazz is one of my main concerns, and naturally this is exhibit A. 

"Bag's Groove" (Philadelphia Beat) I'm still not giving Sonny Clark a run for his money but this is at least a step on the staircase.  Surreal motivic development has always been present; when I really start swinging that will be the complete package. Maybe when I'm 50?


Thanks for listening, thanks for reading...

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