Ethan Iverson ‘Live at Smalls’ (Smalls Live) 3/5

Part of an ongoing series of live recordings from the Greenwich Village based club Smalls, with an intimate atmosphere that lends itself to small-group jazz combos, the pianist from trio The Bad Plus, Ethan Iverson, performs a set of more traditional material. He is ably assisted here by Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath on drums and Ben Street on bass. With no prior rehearsal the feel is exploratory and even the best known of numbers become something quite obscure. A case in point is ‘All the things you are’ which begins as a quasi-classical solo piece before the rhythm section enters. Throughout the theme is barely stated. In contrast Bud Powell’s ‘Dance of the infidels’ receives a more straightforward delivery. Ballads such as ‘Out of nowhere’ reveal Iverson to be a clever pianist who has clearly reflected on how to approach a more mainstream repertoire. Nonetheless the question does need to be asked of whether Iverson has a highly distinctive individual style as such. His ability to play different styles is highlighted on the live set with Mal Waldron deliberately quoted on ‘Melonae’ which is a tribute both to drummer Heath who has played with the late Waldron on numerous occasions and to friend and fellow drummer Ronald Tucker who featured on the original session.

Tim Stenhouse