Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ross & Iverson On Broadway: Rockin' The Glass Canyon

Very glad I happened to see the last-minute announcement that Alex Ross and Ethan Iverson were doing their program on twentieth century music (mostly classical, some jazz) at the Upper West Side Apple Store last night.  It's a simple format: Ross reads from his book (which I, shamefully, have not yet purchased despite getting the highest recommendations of it from multiple sources) and Iverson plays pieces by the composers being discussed.  Surprisingly, Ross is something of a ham onstage (doing voices when reading quotations, employing props), which, in combination with his wry humor (I'll pass on the obvious pun lurking in this sentence) and the piano accompaniment gave the event something of an "educational vaudeville" feel.  If you weren't there, you'll have to take my word that it was much better than that description makes it sound (actually, I think it was being recorded, so you might get the chance to hear for yourself). 

Of the piano pieces, all performed flawlessly by Iverson on a Steinway (at least they sounded flawless - I'm certainly not qualified to assess the accuracy of anyone's playing of the 20th-century classical repertoire - if nothing else, though, this program certainly proves Iverson's versatility as a pianist - from the "Spanish Tinge" to 12-tone), the highlight for me was probably the "Alcotts" movement from Charles Ives' Concord Sonata.  A moving, deeply dug-in performance that snuck up on me and delivered a big clout.  It was also great to hear Iverson improvise on Charlie Parker's "Moose the Mooche" as an encore.  Apparently, he typically plays it as-written, as he does with Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues", when performing with Ross. 

One quick note on the sound:
The Apple Store was clearly designed as an electronics showroom, not a concert hall.  I had to strain a bit to catch everything Ross was saying and I'm sure some of the nuances of Iverson's playing were lost, but I was annoyed when I saw someone approach the sound man to complain during the performance.  I don't know that much about live sound, but with the cavernous, highly reflective space and less-than-state-of-the-art sound system he had to work with, the guy was probably making a heroic effort to make things as clear as they were.
Bonus Links
Iverson's comments on the individual pieces are here, and Ross' reports from the duo's earlier appearances can be found here.

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