Ethan Iverson: Every Note Is True

The Bad Plus pianist is back in trio (now with Grenadier and DeJohnette), but sounding more subdued, more contemplative and restrained


Ethan Iverson’s fourth album since leaving the Bad Plus in 2017 – and his first outing on Blue Note – lines him up with the stellar support of Larry Grenadier on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. His return to the trio format suggests a return to the music and style of The Bad Plus, but while this new music is all his – no covers of popular songs here, and only DeJohnette’s Blue from 1978’s Gateway 2 intrudes – and is as intelligent as any he has previously performed, it seems to my ears to be more subdued than before, more contemplative and restrained.

Eternal Verities is hymn-like in its simplicity, She Won’t Forget Me suitable in its upbeat approach as the title of a proposed TV rom-com, For Ellen Raskin a heartfelt tribute. Goodness Knows nods generously towards Fats Waller (and Jason Moran) while Had I But Known is a through-composed and stately solo outing.

An exception to all this is the opening oddity, what he calls “a nod to socially distanced art-making from the Covid years”, in which 44 friends sang the lyrics written by Sarah Deming into their phones and Iverson pulled them all together. Luckily, it is a brief song, but one line does give us the apposite title for the album: “The song goes on when the band goes home, and every note is true.”

Throughout, Iverson’s is the dominant voice, the rest of the trio often playing just in support, only cutting loose on the rhythmically knotty Merely Improbable, with both also soloing strongly on the concluding blues, At The Bells And Motley (an Agatha Christie story, apparently!). But it is Iverson you have come to hear, and he does not disappoint.

(2) The More It Changes; (1) The Eternal Verities; She Won’t Forget Me; For Ellen Raskin; Blue; Goodness Knows; Had I But Known; Merely Improbable; Praise Will Travel; At The Bells And Motley (43.00)
(1) Iverson (p), Larry Grenadier (b), Jack DeJohnette (d).
(2) Iverson (p, v), 44-piece choir (v). Rhinenbeck, NYC, 5–6 January 2021.
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