Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review of 7/21's Show: Charlie Haden & Ethan Iverson Duo

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by Jim Macnie

Bop sometimes sounds wan without a drummer, but in the right hands, a percussion-less group can deliver the goods by stressing punctuation – which is pretty much the way Charlie Haden and Ethan Iverson got the job done last night at the Blue Note. The tune was Bird and Fats’ “Wahoo,” which as the bassist said, is a spin on “Perdido” that has a fair amount of forward motion written into it. The gig was the first chapter of Haden’s now-annual “Invitation Series,” his chance to spend a week playing single-evening sets with a variety of pianists (Kuhn, Bley, Barron, and Charlap round out the shows). Iverson gave the head a crisp reading and fueled that forward motion with an mistakable dollop of bottom thrust. The evening’s fare may have stressed the graceful nature of the duet realm, but time and again – from the jaunty “Humpty Dumpty” to the melancholy “First Song” – a deep sense of pulse implied a palpable rhythm. Abstractions were kept to a minimum – melody was the set’s calling card, as it is the bassist’s signature trait – but Iverson added inspired maneuvers to a couple tunes, chopping one head in an amusing staccato manner and adding delicate, upper register flurries to the conclusion of another. It prompted the guy next to me – who otherwise seemed to know his stuff about Haden – to tell his pals, “this pianist is out there.” If busting inventive moves to nudge a performance towards a more vivid musical spot is being out there, I guess the dude’s right. Haden, whose earthy bass sound became more and more addictive as the set progressed, had a smile on face as his partner steered left of center.

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