Stompin At The Vanguard

The more bounce Ethan Iverson adds to his music, the more compelling it becomes. Wednesday night at the Vanguard, the pianist’s trio strolled through “Stompin At The Savoy” (a Benny Goodman classic he’s partial to and has played previously), and when drummer Nasheet Waits started tapping out a Morse Code message on his snare and cymbals that was basically saying, “let’s cook this thing up a bit, gents,” the boss not only responded with some of his cagiest phrasing of the set, but hit the gas on dispensing extra élan. Something similar went down on the Iverson original “Forgive and Forget, which closed the show. There, the ping pong moves between the three musicians brokered a buoyancy that had eluded a few of the evening’s other tunes. Iverson’s work sometimes comes with hung velvet and dim chandelier vibes (to steal a phrase from Van Dyke Parks) and pays a price by having that solemnity seep into territories that can be deemed grandiose. Of course, part of his former band’s esthetic was honed on this formula; The Bad Plus never met a melody it couldn’t explode or extend during one of its slow-build excursions. But waxing breezy (check “Graduation Day” from his The Purity of the Turf) is an Iverson attribute that’s equally effective and appreciated by some, and at the Vanguard he wisely made the twain meet on “She Won’t Forget Me,” which he described as his version of a TV show theme, catchy and concise, like the ones he grew up on in the ’80s. Here he delivered the best of both worlds: a pithy melody driven by an animated left-hand motif that was balanced by a dash of the stately aura he ascribes as being the fruit of his classical music jones. This “twain” is the pianist’s sweet spot, a zip code where ardor starts to feel a lot like brio, and he’s is able to paint a broader emotional portrait. “Forget Me” is part of Iverson’s Every Note Is True (Blue Note), and its jaunty nature has kin in the bent-bop nugget “Goodness Knows” and debonair blues “At The Bells And Motley.” With bassist Ben Street’s agile thumps aiding the forward motion (go ahead, call it swing) on 7th Avenue South the other night, Iverson’s squad was just as well-equipped for lift-off as it was for rumination. Two more evenings left to head by the club and see how the temperament might change. And if you’re searching for pure beauty, politely request their spin on Roberta Flack’s 1973 smash.

Village Vanguard

Ethan Iverson

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