Ethan Iverson & Ron Carter at Mezzrow's

Friday night, I saw one of the finest, most intimate jazz sets I'd seen in a while: Ethan Iverson and Ron Carter playing duets at Mezzrow, a small new jazz club in Manhattan's West Village, across the street from Smalls, an even smaller, somewhat older jazz club (both of which are operated by Spike Willner, a considerable pianist himself, mainly in the stride style).

Those in the jammed club who knew Iverson only as the pianist for The Bad Plus, or as a sideman (and a rather backseat one, at that) in Billy Hart's quartet, may have gasped, or at least raised their eyebrows, at his commanding way with a standard ballad, his sly twists of harmony, and his surefooted sense of the blues and, yes, swing. Iverson can do it all, while never abandoning his distinctive touch. He really does rank among the half-dozen or so top jazz pianists around, and he ought to get around more to show it.

The revelation of the night, though, was Carter, a giant of the jazz bass, but I guess I'd lost sufficient track of him to know that, at age 77, he still has it, all of it—power, dexterity, inventiveness, speed (when it's called for), and absolute control: none of it for theatrics, all in the service of expanding, enriching, the music. This was a small gig, and Iverson was in charge, but Carter didn't coast for a second; his brow was sweating, he was immersed in the performance, listening to his duo-mate with complete absorption, trading parts, improvising like any other struggling musician on a bandstand might have (but, of course, better).

They played mainly standards ("Autumn Leaves," "You Go to My Head," "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," "Lover Man") and a few Carter originals. It was a constantly riveting hour.

The club is a welcome addition to the New York scene. The room, as noted, is small, narrow, with low ceilings, and exposed brick walls. If Willner brought in drums and horns, the sound would probably be too bright, but a piano-bass duo—which, for now, is the only kind of combo featured at Mezzrow—sounds, and feels, just right. It seemed especially so with Iverson and Carter, who play with such percussive clarity.

Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing FK.
Autumn Leaves -very fitting.