Ethan Iverson

The Purity Of The Turf
(Criss Cross Jazz 1391)

Your high expectations for this combination of musicians—pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Nasheet Waits—probably aren’t high enough for what they deliver, in terms of letting their distinctive attributes shine while also interacting at the highest levels of listening and invention.

The freedoms they achieve are conceived within self-imposed limitations. Iverson avoids technical excess; his improvisations unfold sparely in his right hand, usually with very little or no emphasis on his left hand (with one significant exception, noted below). He plays deliberately, nurturing his ideas sometimes in unhurried quarter notes or eighth notes. Similarly, Waits works maybe 90 percent of the time on ride cymbal and snare alone. When he does accent something on one of his toms, it’s for a very good reason.

With that understood, all three musicians conspire to create a landmark session, one that targets both the visceral pleasures of swing and more cerebral levels of appreciation. On the title track, written by Iverson, the specter of Monk hovers over the piano solo. But Iverson stretches tonality through single lines, which grow more adventurous the longer they unfold.

One of the most arresting moments of the album occurs on Iverson’s solo treatment of “Darn That Dream.” Here he reanimates his left hand, conjuring a sense of obsession if not outright menace—not an easy feat with one of the loveliest ballads in the catalog. DB