Ethan Iverson Quartet - Common Practice

Label: ECM Records, 2019

Personnel - Tom Harrell: trumpet; Ethan Iverson: piano; Ben Street: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.


Leading a simpatico new quartet, pianist/composer Ethan Iversen channels energies to a set of charming renditions of Great American Songbook cornerstones alongside two originals, whose bluesy nature goes perfectly well with the rest of the material. While teaming up with bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson in the rhythm section, the pianist didn’t hide his appreciation for having ace trumpeter Tom Harrell spearheading the melodic department.

Common Practice is a heartfelt tribute to New York's straight-ahead jazz. Iversen and his peers stroll through the polished surfaces of jazz standards, combining the mastery of fundamentals with an openness to embrace new textures and harmonic directions. Recorded at the mythical The Village Vanguard, the album is dedicated to that venue’s former guardian, Lorraine Gordon, who died last year at the age of 95.

Wee”, for example, conjures up that same festive, tongue-in-cheek vibe that characterized Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas”. The effusive Caribbean flavor announced by McPherson and Street becomes triumphantly swinging at the time that Harrell blows with intelligible hard-bop erudition, leaving space between phrases. Picking up where the trumpeter left off, Iversen articulates his speech with a mix of liveliness and insouciance before conceding the spotlight to McPherson, who expresses all the syllables of his solo with a clear pronunciation. This number has that pocket you can dance to.

If “Out of Nowhere” doesn’t really push the envelope, despite the galloping rhythmic advances that follow Street’s sharp-witted improvisation, then “All The Things You Are” attracts our attention through a rushing tempo and dazzling statements from trumpet and piano. The trumpeter combines the joy of Clifford Brown with the playfulness of Louis Armstrong, while the pianist explores phrase rhythms piked by some devious resolutions. This is even more explicit on Ellington’s “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, where he sprays colorful chord clusters and evinces an exceptional quality in the intervallic and contrapuntal activities. Harrell also soars on trumpet, twisting the melody with clever note replacements, which are sometimes prolonged for a surprising effect. While here he incorporates a discernible melodic fragment of “Summertime”, on “I Remember You”, he clearly salutes Charlie Parker.

Philadelphia Creamer” and “Jed From Teaneck” are 12-bar blues by Iverson. The emotions continue to flow through aesthetically clean and pleasant choruses that never feel excessive. However, their emotional depth feels a bit restricted when compared with glorious ballads such as “The Man I Love” and “I Can’t Get Started”. The former, a real stunner, highlights Iversen’s brilliant piano work. At the outset, he invents a highly appealing intro that draws you in, and then brings a sweet languidness to his improvisation, built over subdued yet colorful brushwork and spacious bass measures.

To better clarify our readers, what he have here is more than simply straight-ahead readings of popular songs and blues. There are old pieces sounding new again. Thus, with an obvious bind with tradition, the album is never less than stirring and satisfying.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - The Man I Love ► 03 - Wee ► 10 - I’m Getting Sentimental Over You