TT 31: Dance, Charli Persip, Esa-Pekka

I’m headed down to the Kennedy Center this week to do Pepperland with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

It’s really a great show!

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I spent the weekend holed up writing music for Dance Heginbotham premieres in 2020. For grant purposes, I was asked to give a little history of Iverson and dance:

While I am best known as a jazz pianist, and have released two acclaimed albums on ECM in the last two years, I have been associated with dance since about 1992, when my composition teacher at NYU Justin Dello Joio suggested I play for the dance classes at the Martha Graham school. Soon I was apprenticing with the legendary Pearl Lang. In the mid-90s, I would play for classes at Graham, Merce Cunningham, Barnard, and many other studios while doing dance gigs with a tango band at night. Eventually I ended up with Mark Morris and became his music director for five years, playing not just for class but also in performance with great classical musicians like Yo-Yo Ma. I quit working with Morris in order to pursue my dream of being a jazz pianist, and to amazement my new band The Bad Plus was arguably the hottest breakout story of 2003. TBP hit the road and played about 150 concerts a year for 15 years. However, I made sure to keep in touch with Morris: TBP contributed two scores to the MMDG repertory, Violet Cavern and our acclaimed arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  

I had played for many Morris dance classes with John Heginbotham at the barre; In 2015 Heginbotham and I collaborated on Easy Win for his great new company Dance Heginbotham. Morris saw and liked Easy Win, which may have been a factor in my being offered the opportunity to compose and arrange MMDG’s Pepperland of 2017, which was a breath of fresh air and discussed in Morris’s brand new memoir Out Loud. Easy Win and Pepperland showed me a direction for formal composition, and my Concerto to Scale of 2018 was performed by the American Composers Orchestra and positively reviewed in the New York Times.

For this next Dance Heginbotham commission, I plan to keep digging deeper into this nexus of modern dance, formal composition, and jazz music. As far as I know, I am the only one who has spanned these worlds quite like this. They all feed each other. I can’t stop now!

There will be two new pieces to be played alongside Easy Win: a substantial Adagio for violin and piano, and a three-movement Dance Sonata for piano, bass, and drums. 

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The latest Chronology for JazzTimes is my take on early Charli Persip and an. all-star date with Freddie Hubbard and Ron Carter: A Statesman with Sticks.

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On DTM, A quick write-up of various things including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jan Erik Kongshaug (RIP), Gary Teekens (RIP), Marilyn Crispell, Aaron Diehl, and Timo Andres.